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A novel SARS-CoV-2 related virus with complex recombination isolated from bats in Yunnan province, China

By Lili Li, Jinglin Wang, Xiaohua Ma, Jinsong Li, Xiaofei Yang, Weifeng Shi, Zhaojun Duan

Posted 18 Mar 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.17.435823

A novel beta-coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, emerged in late 2019 and rapidly spread throughout the world, causing the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the origin and direct viral ancestors of SARS-CoV-2 remain elusive. Here, we discovered a new SARS-CoV-2-related virus in Yunnan province, in 2018, provisionally named PrC31, which shares 90.7% and 92.0% nucleotide identities with SARS-CoV-2 and the bat SARSr-CoV ZC45, respectively. Sequence alignment revealed that several genomic regions shared strong identity with SARS-CoV-2, phylogenetic analysis supported that PrC31 shares a common ancestor with SARS-CoV-2. The receptor binding domain of PrC31 showed only 64.2% amino acid identity with SARS-CoV-2. Recombination analysis revealed that PrC31 underwent multiple complex recombination events within the SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 sub-lineages, indicating the evolution of PrC31 from yet-to-be-identified intermediate recombination strains. Combination with previous studies revealed that the beta-CoVs may possess more complicated recombination mechanism. The discovery of PrC31 supports that bats are the natural hosts of SARS-CoV-2.

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