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biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.11.10.377366


The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for a better understanding of the evolution of virus-host conflicts. ORF3a in both SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 are ion channels (viroporins) and involved in virion assembly and membrane budding. Using sensitive profile-based homology detection methods, we unify the SARS-CoV ORF3a family with several families of viral proteins, including ORF5 from MERS-CoVs, proteins from beta-CoVs (ORF3c), alpha-CoVs (ORF3b), most importantly, the Matrix (M) proteins from CoVs, and more distant homologs from other nidoviruses. By sequence analysis and structural modeling, we show that these viral families utilize specific conserved polar residues to constitute an ion-conducting pore in the membrane. We reconstruct the evolutionary history of these families, objectively establish the common origin of the M proteins of CoVs and Toroviruses. We show that the divergent ORF3a/ORF3b/ORF5 families represent a duplication stemming from the M protein in alpha- and beta-CoVs. By phyletic profiling of major structural components of primary nidoviruses, we present a model for their role in virion assembly of CoVs, ToroVs and Arteriviruses. The unification of diverse M/ORF3 ion channel families in a wide range of nidoviruses, especially the typical M protein in CoVs, reveal a conserved, previously under-appreciated role of ion channels in virion assembly, membrane fusion and budding. We show that the M and ORF3 are under differential evolutionary pressures; in contrast to the slow evolution of M as core structural component, the CoV-ORF3 clade is under selection for diversification, which indicates it is likely at the interface with host molecules and/or immune attack.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome , COVID-19
biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.11.04.361576


The COVID-19 pandemic is a widespread and deadly public health crisis. The pathogen SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the lower respiratory tract and causes fatal pneumonia. Although tremendous efforts have been put into investigating the pathogeny of SARS-CoV-2, the underlying mechanism of how SARS-CoV-2 interacts with its host is largely unexplored. Here, by comparing the genomic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 and human, we identified five fully conserved elements in SARS-CoV-2 genome, which were termed as "human identical sequences (HIS)". HIS are also recognized in both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV genome. Meanwhile, HIS-SARS-CoV-2 are highly conserved in the primate. Mechanically, HIS-SARS-CoV-2 RNA directly binds to the targeted loci in human genome and further interacts with host enhancers to activate the expression of adjacent and distant genes, including cytokines gene and angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE2), a well-known cell entry receptor of SARS-CoV-2, and hyaluronan synthase 2 (HAS2), which further increases hyaluronan formation. Noteworthily, hyaluronan level in plasma of COVID-19 patients is tightly correlated with severity and high risk for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and may act as a predictor for the progression of COVID-19. HIS antagomirs, which downregulate hyaluronan level effectively, and 4-Methylumbelliferone (MU), an inhibitor of hyaluronan synthesis, are potential drugs to relieve the ARDS related ground-glass pattern in lung for COVID-19 treatment. Our results revealed that unprecedented HIS elements of SARS-CoV-2 contribute to the cytokine storm and ARDS in COVID-19 patients. Thus, blocking HIS-involved activating processes or hyaluronan synthesis directly by 4-MU may be effective strategies to alleviate COVID-19 progression.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome , Dissociative Identity Disorder , Respiratory Distress Syndrome , COVID-19 , Pneumonia
biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.03.04.977736


A novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is the causative agent of an emergent severe respiratory disease (COVID-19) in humans that is threatening to result in a global health crisis. By using genomic, sequence, structural and evolutionary analysis, we show that Alpha- and Beta-CoVs possess several novel families of immunoglobulin (Ig) domain proteins, including ORF8 and ORF7a from SARS-related coronaviruses and two protein groups from certain Alpha-CoVs. Among them, ORF8 is distinguished in being rapidly evolving, possessing a unique insert and a hypervariable position among SARS-CoV-2 genomes in its predicted ligand-binding groove. We also uncover many Ig proteins from several metazoan viruses which are distinct in sequence and structure but share an architecture comparable to that of CoV Ig domain proteins. Hence, we propose that deployment of Ig domain proteins is a widely-used strategy by viruses, and SARS-CoV-2 ORF8 is a potential pathogenicity factor which evolves rapidly to counter the immune response and facilitate the transmission between hosts.

COVID-19 , Respiratory Tract Diseases