The raw material for viral evolution is provided by intra-host mutations occurring during replication, transcription or post-transcription. Replication and transcription of Coronaviridae proceed through the synthesis of negative-sense 'antigenomes' acting as templates for positive-sense genomic and subgenomic RNA. Hence, mutations in the genomes of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses can occur during (and after) the synthesis of either negative-sense or positive-sense RNA, with potentially distinct patterns and consequences. We explored for the first time the mutational spectrum of SARS-CoV-2 (sub)genomic and anti(sub)genomic RNA. We use a high-quality deep sequencing dataset produced using a quantitative strand-aware sequencing method, controlled for artefacts and sequencing errors, and scrutinized for accurate detection of within-host diversity. The nucleotide differences between negative- and positive-sense strand consensus vary between patients and do not show dependence on age or sex. Similarities and differences in mutational patterns between within-host minor variants on the two RNA strands suggested strand-specific mutations or editing by host deaminases and oxidative damage. We observe generally neutral and slight negative selection on the negative strand, contrasting with purifying selection in ORF1a, ORF1b and S genes of the positive strand of the genome.
Proceedings. Biological sciences
Big Data Institute, Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK.
COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium, Humans, RNA, Viral, Genomics, Mutation, Genome, Viral, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2