ABSTRACT The causative agent of COVID-19 pandemic, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, has a 29,903 bases positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome. RNAs exhibit about 100 modified bases that are essential for proper function. Among internal modified bases, the N 6 -methyladenosine, or m6A, is the most frequent, and is implicated in SARS-CoV-2 immune response evasion. Although the SARS-CoV-2 genome is RNA, almost all genomes sequenced so far are in fact, reverse transcribed complementary DNAs. This process reduces the true complexity of these viral genomes because incorporation of dNTPs hides RNA base modifications. Here, in this perspective paper, we present an initial exploration of the Nanopore direct RNA sequencing to assess the m6A residues in the SARS-CoV-2 sequences of ORF3a, E, M, ORF6, ORF7a, ORF7b, ORF8, N, ORF10 and the 3’-untranslated region. We identified 15 m6A methylated positions, of which, 6 are in ORF N. Also, because m6A is associated with the DRACH motif, we compared its distribution in major SARS-CoV-2 variants. Although DRACH is highly conserved among variants we show that variants Beta and Eta have a fourth position C>U change in DRACH at 28,884b that could affect methylation. The Nanopore technology offers a unique opportunity for the study of viral epitranscriptomics. This technique is PCR-free and is not sequencing-by-synthesis, therefore, no PCR bias and synthesis errors are introduced. The modified bases are preserved and assessed directly with no need for chemical treatments or antibodies. This is the first report of direct RNA sequencing of a Brazilian SARS-CoV-2 sample coupled with the identification of modified bases.
|Authors: ||Campos JH, Maricato JT, Braconi CT, Antoneli F, Janini LMR, Briones MRS.|