Published on Tue Feb 25 2020

Multivariate Analyses of Codon Usage of SARS-CoV-2 and other betacoronaviruses

Gu, H., Chu, D. K. W., Peiris, J. S. M., Poon, L. L. M.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global health concern as it continues to spread within China and beyond. The causative agent of this disease, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), belongs to the genus Betacoronavirus which also includes severe acute respiratory syndrome related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome related coronavirus (MERSr-CoV). Codon usage of viral genes are believed to be subjected to different selection pressures in different host environments. Previous studies on codon usage of influenza A viruses can help identify viral host origins and evolution trends, however, similar studies on coronaviruses are lacking. In this study, global correspondence analysis (CA), within-group correspondence analysis (WCA) and between-group correspondence analysis (BCA) were performed among different genes in coronavirus viral sequences. The amino acid usage pattern of SARS-CoV-2 was generally found similar to bat and human SARSr-CoVs. However, we found greater synonymous codon usage differences between SARS-CoV-2 and its phylogenetic relatives on spike and membrane genes, suggesting these two genes of SARS-CoV-2 are subjected to different evolutionary pressures.