SARS-CoV-2 genomic diversity and the implications for qRT-PCR diagnostics and transmission

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an urgent need to uncover the underlying biology of this devastating disease. Though RNA viruses mutate more rapidly than DNA viruses, there are a relatively small number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that differentiate the main SARS-CoV-2 lineages that have spread throughout the world. In this study, we investigated 129 RNA-seq datasets and 6,928 consensus genomes to contrast the intrahost and interhost diversity of SARS-CoV-2. Our analyses yielded three major observations. First, the mutational profile of SARS-CoV-2 highlights iSNV and SNP similarity, albeit with differences in C>U changes. Second, iSNV and SNP patterns in SARS-CoV-2 are more similar to MERS-CoV than SARS-CoV-1. Third, a significant fraction of insertions and deletions contribute to the genetic diversity of SARS-CoV-2. Altogether, our findings provide insight into SARS-CoV-2 genomic diversity, inform the design of detection tests, and highlight the potential of iSNVs for tracking the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Publication
Genome research 31, no. 4 (2021): 635-644. [DOI:10.1101/gr.268961.120, bioRxiv:10.1101/2020.07.02.184481]
Nicolae Sapoval
Nicolae Sapoval
PhD student

Nick (3rd year PhD student) obtained a B.S. degree in Computer Science and a B.S. with Honors in Mathematics from the University of Chicago. At the University of Chicago Nick worked in wireless networks research and later in computational biophysics focusing on conformational transition modeling for insulin degrading enzyme. His current interests are in the areas of computational biology with a focus on genomic data.

Yunxi Liu
Yunxi Liu
PhD student

Louis (3rd year PhD student) obtained a B.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Houston and a B.S. degree in Pharmacology from China Pharmaceutical University. During his undergraduate in UH, he did research in the Pattern Analysis Laboratory on image feature extraction. His current research interests include computational biology, metagenomics, and data science.

R.A. Leo Elworth
R.A. Leo Elworth
NLM Postdoctoral Fellow

Leo (NLM Postdoctoral Fellow, primary mentor Prof. Lauren Stadler, secondary mentor Prof. Todd Treangen) received his PhD in Computer Science at Rice University in 2019 working on statistical modeling of DNA sequence evolution. He was advised by Dr. Luay Nakhleh, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science at Rice. Since joining at Rice, Leo was awarded a graduate research fellowship from the National Library of Medicine, has published work in computational biology in journals such as Bioinformatics, presented research at scientific conferences like RECOMB-CG in Barcelona and WABI in Helsinki, and contributed to a soon to be released book on computational modeling of evolutionary histories of genomes.

Qi Wang
Qi Wang
PhD student

Dr. Wang finished her PhD in the Treangen Lab December 2021. Previously, Dr. Wang obtained B.S. degrees in Biotechnology from Hong Kong Baptist University and MS in Biotechnology from Northwestern University. During her undergraduate, she did research in University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing University of Chemical Technology and Capital Medical University, focusing on using bioinformatics and experimental approaches to solve various life science problems, including synthetic biology, developmental biology, oncology and drug discovery. Her interest is to improve human health and environment by understanding complex biology data.

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