Complete Genomic Sequence of Human Coronavirus OC43: Molecular Clock Analysis Suggests a Relatively Recent Zoonotic Coronavirus Transmission Event
Leen Vijgen, Els Keyaerts, Elien Moës, Inge Thoelen, Elke Wollants, Philippe Lemey, Anne-Mieke Vandamme, and Marc Van Ranst email@example.com AUTHORS INFO & AFFILIATIONS
Coronaviruses are enveloped, positive-stranded RNA viruses with a genome of approximately 30 kb. Based on genetic similarities, coronaviruses are classified into three groups. Two group 2 coronaviruses, human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43) and bovine coronavirus (BCoV), show remarkable antigenic and genetic similarities. In this study, we report the first complete genome sequence (30,738 nucleotides) of the prototype HCoV-OC43 strain (ATCC VR759). Complete genome and open reading frame (ORF) analyses were performed in comparison to the BCoV genome. In the region between the spike and membrane protein genes, a 290-nucleotide deletion is present, corresponding to the absence of BCoV ORFs ns4.9 and ns4.8. Nucleotide and amino acid similarity percentages were determined for the major HCoV-OC43 ORFs and for those of other group 2 coronaviruses. The highest degree of similarity is demonstrated between HCoV-OC43 and BCoV in all ORFs with the exception of the E gene. Molecular clock analysis of the spike gene sequences of BCoV and HCoV-OC43 suggests a relatively recent zoonotic transmission event and dates their most recent common ancestor to around 1890. An evolutionary rate in the order of 4 × 10−4 nucleotide changes per site per year was estimated. This is the first animal-human zoonotic pair of coronaviruses that can be analyzed in order to gain insights into the processes of adaptation of a nonhuman coronavirus to a human host, which is important for understanding the interspecies transmission events that led to the origin of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak.