American biologists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) have identified a gene that affects coronavirus infection severity.
To find out this physical feature, biologists conducted a comparative genetic analysis of strains of SARS-CoV-2, seven other human coronaviruses that cause common colds, and coronaviruses that infect bats, pigs, pangolins, ferrets, civets, and chickens.
This was necessary to understand the features of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, particularly its replication of pathogenicity and host vulnerability, as well as to identify the general genomic patterns of variability of various strains of SARS-CoV-2, which reflect the selection effects.
Thus, biologists have found out that there are unique sequence signatures in the genome of the virus in the 3′-UTR region, which are involved in the interaction with human hsa-miR1307-3p microRNA. Accordingly, in the miR1307 molecule, there is a clue to how a person transfers coronavirus.
We conducted a systematic gene comparison, examining how and to what extent the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence differs from other well-studied human and animal coronavirus genomes. The results of our study will allow the development of models of interaction between the virus and its hosts, improving understanding of the mechanisms that cause SARS-CoV-2 disease and how to use therapeutic targets for treatment.
Nicholas Schork, Professor, and Director of the Department of Quantitative Medicine and Systems Biology at TGen.
As a result, scientists believe that the miR1307 gene can, as it were, switch various genes of the virus: it can make the disease more or less severe for the body. For example, it regulates the replication rate of the virus.
The authors hope that their discovery will serve as the basis for the development of a new type of vaccine against COVID-19 based on proteins or RNA and specific genetic markers to monitor the spread of the disease and track the transmission of the virus from one species to another.