The Mystery Of The False Start At The 5’ End Of SARS-CoV-2

This is the second in a series describing the role of the beginning and ends of the SARS-CoV-2 genome in the virus life cycle. I summarize what we know and point out what we need to know about these ends in order to develop new antiviral drugs. Read more from this series in part one.

In every mystery story, there are unsolved questions, loose ends, and false leads. Here we discuss an anomaly that may be either an important clue in SARS-CoV-2 replication and pathogenesis or may turn out to be irrelevant. There is a short string of nucleotides in SARS-CoV-2, as well as most coronaviruses, that has the potential to initiate protein synthesis between 150 and 200 nucleotides prior to the initiation of the first major protein in the virus, Orf1a. 

To recall, protein synthesis beings with the codon “AUG.” This codon specifies the amino acid methionine. Elongation of a protein continues as the translation machinery reads the nucleic acid sequence in groups of three until it terminates at well-defined groups of three nucleotides called stop codons. The stop codon comes in three forms: “UAA,” “UAG,” and “UGA.”

Read the full article on Forbes.

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.