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Most Comprehensive Map of SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Structures Now Published

September 9, 2020
Photo Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library

The structures within its RNA that SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect cells have now been identified by scientists, generating the most comprehensive atlas to date of the SARS'CoV-2's genome. A team at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HMHI) led by RNA scientist Anna Marie Pyle has now made the most comprehensive map to date of these genomic structures.

Pyle's team mapped structures across the entire RNA genome of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, using living cells and computational analyses. Measuring about 30,000 RNA letters, SARS-CoV-2's genome is unusually long for an RNA virus. Even so, it is still quite stubby compared to the genomes of people, plants, and even bacteria. Contorting its RNA into three-dimensional shapes gives SARS-CoV-2 another set of tools with which to compensate for a limited number of genes. "An RNA virus gets the most bang for its buck in terms of how it uses its genome," Pyle says.

Pyle's team deciphered the SARS-CoV-2's genome with two parallel approaches. In one study, they examined the RNA's structure from within infected cells, where the team created a snapshot of the RNA genome's full structure. This was the first time anyone has captured such a comprehensive picture of a viral genome from within living cells. In a related study, the team tried to predict how SARS-CoV-2's RNA genome might fold and interact with themselves. The two studies have not yet undergone the scientific vetting process known as peer review, but together, they reveal that SARS-CoV-2's genome has a complex, compact architecture. "The coronavirus genome has more structure than any RNA my lab has studied in the past," Pyle says.

For more details, read the article in HMHI Research News.

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