Despite the identification of horseshoe bats as the reservoir of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-related coronaviruses (SARSr-Co Vs), the origin of SARS-Co V ORF8, which contains the 29-nucleotide signature deletion among human strains, remains obscure.
Although two SARS-related ) in Yunnan, Rs SHC014 and Rs3367, possessed 95% genome identities to human and civet SARSr-Co Vs, their ORF8 protein exhibited only 32.2 to 33% amino acid identities to that of human/civet SARSr-Co Vs.
The expression of ORF8 subgenomic m RNA suggested that the ORF8 protein may be functional in SARSr-Rf-Bat Co Vs.
The high ratio among human SARS-Co Vs compared to that among SARSr-Bat Co Vs supported that ORF8 is under strong positive selection during animal-to-human transmission.
However, considerable genetic distance still exists between the two SARSr-Rs-Bat Co Vs from Yunnan and human/civet SARSr-Co Vs, especially in the ORF8 region, with only 32.2 to 33% amino acid identities.
It is known that most human SARS-Co Vs during the epidemic contained a signature 29-nucleotide (nt) deletion in ORF8, compared to civet SARSr-Co Vs (25), suggesting that this genomic region may be important for interspecies transmission.
Genomes of SARS-related ) in Hong Kong and the Guangdong Province shared only 87 to 92% nucleotide identities to human/civet SARSr-Co V genomes (22, 27, 28).
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