Ecoepidemiology and Complete Genome Comparison of different strains of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Rhinolophus Bat Coronavirus in China reveal bats as a reservoir for acute, self-limiting infection that allows recombination events


Material Information

Ecoepidemiology and Complete Genome Comparison of different strains of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Rhinolophus Bat Coronavirus in China reveal bats as a reservoir for acute, self-limiting infection that allows recombination events
Series Title:
Journal of virology
Lau, Susanna K. P.
Li, Kenneth S. M.
Huang, Yi
Shek, Chung-Tong
Tse, Herman
Wang, Ming
Choi, Garnet K. Y.
Xu, Huifang
Lam, Carol S. F.
Guo, Rongtong
Chan, Kwok-Hung
Zheng, Bo-Jian
Woo, Patrick C. Y.
Yuen, Kwok-Yung
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
1 online resource


Subjects / Keywords:
Coronaviruses ( lcsh )
SARS (Disease) ( lcsh )
Bats -- Viruses ( lcsh )
serial ( sobekcm )
Asia -- China


Despite the identification of severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV) in Rhinolophus Chinese horseshoe bats (SARSr-Rh-BatCoV) in China, the evolutionary and possible recombination origin of SARSr-CoV remains undetermined. We carried out the first study to investigate the migration pattern and SARSr-Rh-BatCoV genome epidemiology in Chinese horseshoe bats during a 4-year period. Of 1,401 Chinese horseshoe bats from Hong Kong and Guangdong, China, that were sampled, SARSr-Rh-BatCoV was detected in alimentary specimens from 130 (9.3%) bats, with peak activity during spring. A tagging exercise of 511 bats showed migration distances from 1.86 to 17 km. Bats carrying SARSr-Rh-BatCoV appeared healthy, with viral clearance occurring between 2 weeks and 4 months. However, lower body weights were observed in bats positive for SARSr-Rh-BatCoV, but not Rh-BatCoV HKU2. Complete genome sequencing of 10 SARSr-Rh-BatCoV strains showed frequent recombination between different strains. Moreover, recombination was detected between SARSr-Rh-BatCoV Rp3 from Guangxi, China, and Rf1 from Hubei, China, in the possible generation of civet SARSr-CoV SZ3, with a breakpoint at the nsp16/spike region. Molecular clock analysis showed that SARSr-CoVs were newly emerged viruses with the time of the most recent common ancestor (tMRCA) at 1972, which diverged between civet and bat strains in 1995. The present data suggest that SARSr-Rh-BatCoV causes acute, self-limiting infection in horseshoe bats, which serve as a reservoir for recombination between strains from different geographical locations within reachable foraging range. Civet SARSr-CoV is likely a recombinant virus arising from SARSr-CoV strains closely related to SARSr-Rh-BatCoV Rp3 and Rf1. Such frequent recombination, coupled with rapid evolution especially in ORF7b/ORF8 region, in these animals may have accounted for the cross-species transmission and emergence of SARS. Coronaviruses can infect a wide variety of animals, causing respiratory, enteric, hepatic, and neurological diseases with different degrees of severity. On the basis of genotypic and serological characteristics, coronaviruses were classified into three distinct groups (2, 20, 54). Among coronaviruses that infect humans, human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E) and human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63) belong to group 1 coronaviruses and human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43), and human coronavirus HKU1 (HCoV-HKU1) belong to group 2 coronaviruses, whereas severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV) has been classified as a group 2b coronavirus, distantly related to group 2a, and the recently discovered group 2c and 2d coronaviruses (6, 8, 10, 18, 31, 38, 43, 46, 49, 50). Recently, the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee for Taxonomy of Viruses has proposed renaming the traditional group 1, 2, and 3 coronaviruses Alphacoronavirus, Betacoronavirus, and Gammacoronavirus, respectively ( Among all coronaviruses, SARSr-CoV has caused the most severe disease in humans, with over 700 fatalities since the SARS epidemic in 2003. Although the identification of SARSr-CoV in Himalayan palm civets and raccoon dogs in live animal markets in southern China suggested that wild animals could be the origin of SARS (11), the presence of the virus in only market or farmed civets, but not civets in the wild, and the rapid evolution of SARSr-CoV genomes in market civets suggested that these caged animals were only intermediate hosts (24, 39, 42, 52). Since bats are commonly found and served in wild animal markets and restaurants in Guangdong, China (47), we have previously carried out a study of bats from the region and identified a SARSr-CoV in Rhinolophus Chinese horseshoe bats (SARSr-Rh-BatCoV) (21). Similar viruses have also been found in three other species of horseshoe bats in mainland China (25), supporting the hypothesis that horseshoe bats are a reservoir of SARSr-CoV. Recently, viruses closely related to SARSr-Rh-BatCoV in China were also reported in Chaerophon bats from Africa, although only partial RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) sequences were available (41). In addition, more than 10 previously unrecognized coronaviruses of huge diversity have since been identified in bats from China and other countries (1, 3, 5, 9, 22, 27, 32, 33, 40, 46, 51), suggesting that bats play an important role in the ecology and evolution of coronaviruses. As a result of the unique mechanism of viral replication, coronaviruses have a high frequency of recombination (20). Such a high recombination rate, coupled with the infidelity of the polymerases of RNA viruses, may allow them to adapt to new hosts and ecological niches (12, 48). Recombination in coronaviruses was first recognized between different strains of murine hepatitis virus (MHV) and subsequently in other coronaviruses, such as infectious bronchitis virus, between MHV and bovine coronavirus, and between feline coronavirus type I and canine coronavirus generating feline coronavirus type II (12, 16, 17, 23). Recently, by complete genome analysis of 22 strains of HCoV-HKU1, we have also documented for the first time that natural recombination events in a human coronavirus can give rise to three different genotypes (48). Although previous studies have attempted to study the possible evolutionary and recombination origin of SARSr-CoV, no definite conclusion can be made on whether the viruses from bats are the direct ancestor of SARSr-CoV in civets and humans, given the paucity of available strains and genome sequences. To better define the epidemiology and evolution of SARSr-Rh-BatCoV in China and their role as a recombination origin of SARSr-CoV in civets, we carried out a 4-year study on coronaviruses in Chinese horseshoe bats in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province of southern China. Bat tagging was also performed to study the migration pattern of bats and viral persistence. The complete genomes of 10 strains of SARSr-Rh-BatCoV obtained at different time were sequenced and compared to previously sequenced genomes. With the availability of this larger set of genome sequences for more accurate analysis, recombination and molecular clock analyses were performed to elucidate the evolutionary origin and time of interspecies transmission of SARSr-CoV.
Original Version:
Volume 84, Issue 6

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