Mix of animal genes: this is how Sars-CoV-2 was born


SARS-CoV-2 it’s a mix of genes inherited from coronaviruses of bat and pangolin: to put end to the mystery about the origins of the virus is the research published in the journal Science Advances and conducted in the USA under the guidance of the Italian Elena Giorgi, who works in the Los Alamos Laboratories, and Feng Gao, of Duke University.

Analyzing the genetic sequences of the virus The researchers confirmed that its closest relative is the coronavirus that infects bats, but that it has acquired the ability to infect humans thanks to a fragment of genetic material received by the coronavirus that infects the pangolin. “The coronavirus sequences collected by the pangolins we discuss in our study had already been examined, however, the scientific community was still divided on whether they had played a role in the evolution of Sars-CoV-2,” said Giorgi.

In research, he added, “we have shown that indeed Sars-CoV-2 has one rich evolutionary history which includes a genetic material reshuffle between bat coronavirus and pangolin before he acquired his ability to jump in humans». The researchers report that this jump from one species to another was the result of the virus’s ability to bind to host cells through alterations in its genetic material. It is as if the virus had reorganized the key that allows him to unlock the door of a cell guest, in this case a human cell. In the case of Sars-CoV-2, the “key” is the spike protein that is found on the surface of the virus and that coronaviruses use to bind to cells and infect them.

It has been discovered that in bat coronavirus, the binding site of the spike protein, i.e. the part of the protein needed to bind to the human cell membrane, is different from that of Sars-CoV-2 and cannot efficiently infect human cells. . The typical pangolin coronaviruses, on the other hand, despite being very different from Sars-CoV-2, contain the part of the spike protein necessary to bind to the human cell membrane and which is important for infecting humans.