Intra-host variation and evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 populations in COVID-19 patients

Yanqun Wang, Daxi Wang, Lu Zhang, Wanying Sun, Zhaoyong Zhang, Weijun Chen, Airu Zhu, Yongbo Huang, Fei Xiao, Jinxiu Yao, Mian Gan, Fang Li (+22 others)
2021 Genome Medicine  
Since early February 2021, the causative agent of COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, has infected over 104 million people with more than 2 million deaths according to official reports. The key to understanding the biology and virus-host interactions of SARS-CoV-2 requires the knowledge of mutation and evolution of this virus at both inter- and intra-host levels. However, despite quite a few polymorphic sites identified among SARS-CoV-2 populations, intra-host variant spectra and their evolutionary dynamics
more » ... emain mostly unknown. Using high-throughput sequencing of metatranscriptomic and hybrid captured libraries, we characterized consensus genomes and intra-host single nucleotide variations (iSNVs) of serial samples collected from eight patients with COVID-19. The distribution of iSNVs along the SARS-CoV-2 genome was analyzed and co-occurring iSNVs among COVID-19 patients were identified. We also compared the evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 population in the respiratory tract (RT) and gastrointestinal tract (GIT). The 32 consensus genomes revealed the co-existence of different genotypes within the same patient. We further identified 40 intra-host single nucleotide variants (iSNVs). Most (30/40) iSNVs presented in a single patient, while ten iSNVs were found in at least two patients or identical to consensus variants. Comparing allele frequencies of the iSNVs revealed a clear genetic differentiation between intra-host populations from the respiratory tract (RT) and gastrointestinal tract (GIT), mostly driven by bottleneck events during intra-host migrations. Compared to RT populations, the GIT populations showed a better maintenance and rapid development of viral genetic diversity following the suspected intra-host bottlenecks. Our findings here illustrate the intra-host bottlenecks and evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 in different anatomic sites and may provide new insights to understand the virus-host interactions of coronaviruses and other RNA viruses.
doi:10.1186/s13073-021-00847-5 pmid:33618765 fatcat:xjimewicizhvxhs3payv6lju5e