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Preprint Dans Anglais | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-454981


The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic recently entered an alarming new phase with the emergence of the variants of concern (VOC) and understanding their biology is paramount to predicting future ones. Current efforts mainly focus on mutations in the spike glycoprotein (S), but changes in other regions of the viral proteome are likely key. We analyzed more than 900,000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes with a computational systems biology approach including a haplotype network and protein structural analyses to reveal lineage-defining mutations and their critical functional attributes. Our results indicate that increased transmission is promoted by epistasis, i.e., combinations of mutations in S and other viral proteins. Mutations in the non-S proteins involve immune-antagonism and replication performance, suggesting convergent evolution. Furthermore, adaptive mutations appear in geographically disparate locations, suggesting that either independent, repeat mutation events or recombination among different strains are generating VOC. We demonstrate that recombination is a stronger hypothesis, and may be accelerating the emergence of VOC by bringing together cooperative mutations. This emphasizes the importance of a global response to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.

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