Koma, Takaaki Tokushima University Tokushima University Educator and Researcher Directory KAKEN Search Researchers
Adachi, Shun Kansai Medical University
Doi, Naoya Tokushima University Tokushima University Educator and Researcher Directory
Adachi, Akio Kansai Medical University Tokushima University Educator and Researcher Directory KAKEN Search Researchers
Human coronaviruses (HCoVs) are of zoonotic origins, and seven distinct HCoVs are currently known to infect humans. While the four seasonal HCoVs appear to be mildly pathogenic and circulate among human populations, the other three designated SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 can cause severe diseases in some cases. The newly identified SARS-CoV-2, a causative virus of COVID-19 that can be deadly, is now spreading worldwide much more efficiently than the other two pathogenic viruses. Despite evident differences in these properties, all HCoVs commonly have an exceptionally large genomic RNA with a rather peculiar gene organization and have the potential to readily alter their biological properties. CoVs are characterized by their biological diversifications, high recombination, and efficient adaptive evolution. We are particularly concerned about the high replication and transmission nature of SARS-CoV-2, which may lead to the emergence of more transmissible and/or pathogenic viruses than ever before. Furthermore, novel variant viruses may appear at any time from the CoV pools actively circulating or persistently being maintained in the animal reservoirs, and from the CoVs in infected human individuals. In this review, we describe knowns of the CoVs and then mention their unknowns to clarify the major issues to be addressed. Genome organizations and sequences of numerous CoVs have been determined, and the viruses are presently classified into separate phylogenetic groups. Functional roles in the viral replication cycle in vitro of non-structural and structural proteins are also quite well understood or suggested. In contrast, those in the in vitro and in vivo replication for various accessory proteins encoded by the variable 3' one-third portion of the CoV genome mostly remain to be determined. Importantly, the genomic sequences/structures closely linked to the high CoV recombination are poorly investigated and elucidated. Also, determinants for adaptation and pathogenicity have not been systematically investigated. We summarize here these research situations. Among conceivable projects, we are especially interested in the underlying molecular mechanism by which the observed CoV diversification is generated. Finally, as virologists, we discuss how we handle the present difficulties and propose possible research directions in the medium or long term.
Frontiers in Microbiology
Frontiers Media S.A.
© 2020 Koma, Adachi, Doi, Adachi and Nomaguchi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
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