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The architecture of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome inside virion, Nat Commun, 24 Jun 2021


Nature Communications, 24 June, 2021, DOI:

The architecture of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome inside virion

Changchang Cao, Zhaokui Cai, Xia Xiao, Jian Rao, Juan Chen, Naijing Hu, Minnan Yang, Xiaorui Xing, Yongle Wang, Manman Li, Bing Zhou, Xiangxi Wang, Jianwei Wang & Yuanchao Xue


SARS-CoV-2 carries the largest single-stranded RNA genome and is the causal pathogen of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. How the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome is folded in the virion remains unknown. To fill the knowledge gap and facilitate structure-based drug development, we develop a virion RNA in situ conformation sequencing technology, named vRIC-seq, for probing viral RNA genome structure unbiasedly. Using vRIC-seq data, we reconstruct the tertiary structure of the SARS-CoV-2 genome and reveal a surprisingly “unentangled globule” conformation. We uncover many long-range duplexes and higher-order junctions, both of which are under purifying selections and contribute to the sequential package of the SARS-CoV-2 genome. Unexpectedly, the D614G and the other two accompanying mutations may remodel duplexes into more stable forms. Lastly, the structure-guided design of potent small interfering RNAs can obliterate the SARS-CoV-2 in Vero cells. Overall, our work provides a framework for studying the genome structure, function, and dynamics of emerging deadly RNA viruses.