(searched for: doi:10.1101/2021.08.05.21261642)
Published: 9 February 2022
Worldwide SARS-CoV-2 sequencing efforts track emerging mutations in its spike protein, as well as characteristic mutations in other viral proteins. Besides their epidemiological importance, the observed SARS-CoV-2 sequences present an ensemble of viable protein variants, and thereby a source of information on viral protein structure and function. Charting the mutational landscape of the nucleocapsid (N) protein that facilitates viral assembly, we observe variability exceeding that of the spike protein, with more than 86% of residues that can be substituted, on average by 3-4 different amino acids. However, mutations exhibit an uneven distribution that tracks known structural features but also reveals highly protected stretches of unknown function. One of these conserved regions is in the central disordered linker proximal to the N-G215C mutation that has become dominant in the Delta variant, outcompeting G215 variants without further spike or N-protein substitutions. Structural models suggest that the G215C mutation stabilizes conserved transient helices in the disordered linker serving as protein-protein interaction interfaces. Comparing Delta variant N-protein to its ancestral version in biophysical experiments, we find a significantly more compact and less disordered structure. N-G215C exhibits substantially stronger self-association, shifting the unliganded protein from a dimeric to a tetrameric oligomeric state, which leads to enhanced co-assembly with nucleic acids. This suggests that the sequence variability of N-protein is mirrored by high plasticity of N-protein biophysical properties, which we hypothesize can be exploited by SARS-CoV-2 to achieve greater efficiency of viral assembly, and thereby enhanced infectivity.
Published: 14 January 2022
SARS-CoV-2 surveillance is crucial to identify variants with altered epidemiological properties. Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) provides an unbiased and complementary approach to sequencing individual cases. Yet, national WBE surveillance programs have not been widely implemented and data analyses remain challenging.We deep-sequenced 2,093 wastewater samples representing 95 municipal catchments, covering >57% of Austria’s population, from December 2020 to September 2021. Our Variant Quantification in Sewage pipeline designed for Robustness (VaQuERo) enabled us to deduce variant abundance from complex wastewater samples and delineate the spatiotemporal dynamics of the dominant Alpha and Delta variants as well as regional clusters of other variants of concern. These results were cross validated by epidemiological records of >130,000 individual cases. Finally, we provide a framework to predict emerging variants de novo and infer variant-specific reproduction numbers from wastewater.This study demonstrates the power of national-scale WBE to support public health and promises particular value for countries without dense individual monitoring.Graphical
Published: 10 January 2022
SARS-CoV-2 lineages are continuously evolving. As of December 2021, the AY.4.2 Delta sub-lineage represented 20 % of sequenced strains in UK and has been detected in dozens of countries. It has since then been supplanted by the Omicron variant. AY.4.2 displays three additional mutations (T95I, Y145H and A222V) in the N-terminal domain (NTD) of the spike when compared to the original Delta variant (B.1.617.2) and remains poorly characterized. Here, we analyzed the fusogenicity of the AY.4.2 spike and the sensitivity of an authentic AY.4.2 isolate to neutralizing antibodies. The AY.4.2 spike exhibited similar fusogenicity and binding to ACE2 than Delta. The sensitivity of infectious AY.4.2 to a panel of monoclonal neutralizing antibodies was similar to Delta, except for the anti-RBD Imdevimab, which showed incomplete neutralization. Sensitivity of AY.4.2 to sera from individuals having received two or three doses of Pfizer or two doses of AstraZeneca vaccines was reduced by 1.7 to 2.1 fold, when compared to Delta. Our results suggest that mutations in the NTD remotely impair the efficacy of anti-RBD antibodies. The temporary spread of AY.4.2 was not associated with major changes in spike function but rather to a partially reduced neutralization sensitivity.
Vaccines, Volume 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/vaccines9121459
SARS-CoV-2 and its variants caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines that target conserved regions of SARS-CoV-2 and stimulate protective T-cell responses are important for reducing symptoms and limiting the infection. Seven cytotoxic (CTL) and five helper T-cells (HTL) epitopes from ORF1ab were identified using NetCTLpan and NetMHCIIpan algorithms, respectively. These epitopes were generated from ORF1ab regions that are evolutionary stable as reflected by zero Shannon’s entropy and are presented by 56 human leukocyte antigen (HLA) Class I and 22 HLA Class II, ensuring good coverage for the Indonesian and world population. Having fulfilled other criteria such as immunogenicity, IFNγ inducing ability, and non-homology to human and microbiome peptides, the epitopes were assembled into a vaccine construct (VC) together with β-defensin as adjuvant and appropriate linkers. The VC was shown to have good physicochemical characteristics and capability of inducing CTL as well as HTL responses, which stem from the engagement of the vaccine with toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) as revealed by docking simulations. The most promiscuous peptide 899WSMATYYLF907 was shown via docking simulation to interact well with HLA-A*24:07, the most predominant allele in Indonesia. The data presented here will contribute to the in vitro study of T-cell epitope mapping and vaccine design in Indonesia.
Published: 5 December 2021
Background: Delta has outcompeted most preexisting variants of SARS-CoV-2, becoming the globally predominant lineage by mid-2021. Its subsequent evolution has led to emergence of multiple sublineages, many of which are well-mixed between countries.Aim: Here, we aim to study the emergence and spread of the Delta lineage in Russia.Methods: We use a phylogeographic approach to infer imports of Delta sublineages into Russia, and phylodynamic models to assess the rate of their spread.Results: We show that nearly the entire Delta epidemic in Russia has probably descended from a single import event despite genetic evidence of multiple Delta imports. Indeed, over 90% of Delta samples in Russia are characterized by the nsp2:K81N+ORF7a:P45L pair of mutations which is rare outside Russia, putting them in the AY.122 sublineage. The AY.122 lineage was frequent in Russia among Delta samples from the start, and has not increased in frequency in other countries where it has been observed, suggesting that its high prevalence in Russia has probably resulted from a random founder effect.Conclusion: The apartness of the genetic composition of the Delta epidemic in Russia makes Russia somewhat unusual, although not exceptional, among other countries.
Published: 7 May 2021
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) emerged in late 2019 and spread globally to cause the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the constant accumulation of genetic variation in the SARS-CoV-2 population, there was little evidence for the emergence of significantly more transmissible lineages in the first half of 2020. Starting around November 2020, several more contagious and possibly more virulent ‘Variants of Concern’ (VoCs) were reported in various regions of the world. These VoCs share some mutations and deletions that haven arisen recurrently in distinct genetic backgrounds. Here, we build on our previous work modelling the association of mutations to SARS-CoV-2 transmissibility and characterise the contribution of individual recurrent mutations and deletions to estimated viral transmissibility. We then assess how patterns of estimated transmissibility in all SARS-CoV-2 clades have varied over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic by summing transmissibility estimates for all individual mutations carried by any sequenced genome analysed. Such an approach recovers the Delta variant (21A) as the most transmissible clade currently in circulation, followed by the Alpha variant (20I). By assessing transmissibility over the time of sampling, we observe a tendency for estimated transmissibility within clades to slightly decrease over time in most clades. Although subtle, this pattern is consistent with the expectation of a decay in transmissibility in mainly non-recombining lineages caused by the accumulation of weakly deleterious mutations. SARS-CoV-2 remains a highly transmissible pathogen, though such a trend could conceivably play a role in the turnover of different global viral clades observed over the pandemic so far.Caveats: This work is not about the severity of disease. We do not analyse the severity of disease. We do not present any evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has decreased in severity. Lineage replacement dynamics are affected by many factors. The trend we recover for a decrease in inferred transmissibility of a clade over time is a small effect. We caution against over-interpretation. This result would not affect the management of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: for example, we make no claims about any impact on the efficacy of particular non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). Our phylogeny-based method to infer changes in estimated transmissibility due to recurrent mutations and deletions makes a number of simplifying assumptions. These may not all be valid. The consistent trend for the slight decrease we report might be due to an as-yet-unidentified systematic bias.