The Genomic and Structural Organization of SARS-CoV-2: A Mutational Perspective

Mohammad K. Parvez, Sakina Niyazi


The ongoing pandemic due to the novel SARS-CoV-2 disease (COVID-19) has exerted a great toll on human health. The SARS-CoV-2 is the third most pathogenic human CoV after SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, which is classified within the genus Betacoronavirus. Though the actual source of its origin and transmission is still unclear, genetic analysis has shown its very close similarity (~96%) with bat SARS-like CoV. SARS-CoV-2 is a spherically-icosahedral virus with a plus-sense single-strand RNA (~30 kb) genome defined into thirteen open reading frames, which encode 2 non-structural polyproteins, 4 structural proteins and 6 accessory proteins. Of its structural proteins the ‘S1’ subunit of spike (S) contains the cellular ACE-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) whereas the ‘S2’ subunit is required for cell membrane fusion. The membrane (M) protein participates in cell-fusion whereas envelope (E) is necessary for virion assembly and morphogenesis. The non-structural polyproteins (pp1a and pp1b) undergo proteolytic processing to produce a total of 16 small proteins, which are involved in mRNA synthesis and replication. Of the accessory proteins (3a, 6, 7a, 7b, 8 and 9b), few are known to modulate host-innate immunity. Interestingly, ‘3b’ is absent in SARS-CoV-2 that significantly differentiates it from other human CoV. Detection of several novel mutations in ‘3a’, ‘3b’ and ‘ORF8’ proteins, notably in the ‘S’ RBD strongly suggest SARS-CoV-2 enhanced cell attachment and facilitated entry, its high infectivity and disease severity in humans. The recent emergence of highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 RBD variants in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7 strain), South Africa (B.1.351 strain) and Brazil (P.1 strain), and their subsequent spread to other counties have raised serious concerns.


Doi: 10.28991/SciMedJ-2021-0301-8

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Coronavirus; Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; ACE-2; Mutations.


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DOI: 10.28991/SciMedJ-2021-0301-8


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