A collaboration between the Scott Lab and IncisiveRNA, Inc.

Coronaviruses and astroviruses are viruses whose genome is a single-stranded mRNA, complete with a 3'-UTR and poly-A tail. In a subset of coronaviruses that include SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV), SARS-CoV-1, and MERS, the 3'-UTR contains a highly-conserved sequence (in an otherwise rather variable message) that folds into a unique structure, called the s2m (stem-loop two motif). Although the s2m appears to be extremely conserved in sequence, and is required for virus viability, its exact function is not known. SARS-CoV-2 posesses almost exactly the same s2m sequence (and therefore structure) as found in the original SARS virus genomic RNA. In 2004, we solved the structure of the SARS-CoV-1 s2m RNA. (PDB entry 1XJR). Because the two viruses are nearly identical in this region, we also have the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 s2m RNA. The s2m structure reveals several unique features that include potential sites for antiviral drugs to bind. This gives us (or anyone) the opportunity to design antivirals for an immediate response to the 2020 pandemic.
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