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“Genes within genes” may contribute to COVID-19’s pandemic potential

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And COVID-19 engages in genomic trickery:

Researchers have discovered a new ‘hidden’ gene in SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — that may have contributed to its unique biology and pandemic potential. In a virus that only has about 15 genes in total, knowing more about this and other overlapping genes — or ‘genes within genes’ — could have a significant impact on how we combat the virus…

At first glance, genes can seem like written language in that they are made of strings of letters (in RNA viruses, the nucleotides A, U, G, and C) that convey information. But while the units of language (words) are discrete and non-overlapping, genes can be overlapping and multifunctional, with information cryptically encoded depending on where you start “reading.” Overlapping genes are hard to spot, and most scientific computer programs are not designed to find them. However, they are common in viruses. This is partly because RNA viruses have a high mutation rate, so they tend to keep their gene count low to prevent a large number of mutations. As a result, viruses have evolved a sort of data compression system in which one letter in its genome can contribute to two or even three different genes.

“Missing overlapping genes puts us in peril of overlooking important aspects of viral biology,” said Nelson. “In terms of genome size, SARS-CoV-2 and its relatives are among the longest RNA viruses that exist. They are thus perhaps more prone to ‘genomic trickery’ than other RNA viruses.”

American Museum of Natural History, “Study identifies new ‘hidden’ gene in COVID-19 virus” at ScienceDaily

The paper is open access.

Also: COVID-19:When 900 bytes shut down the world. A great physicist warned us, information precedes matter and energy: Bit before it.

We already knew that the common cold virus changes its genome. Rebranding it as the Super-Plague doesn't change Nature. polistra
This just in, yesterday: New coronavirus breathalyzer test in the works at University of Miami. It only makes sense if the way of transmission is through exhaling. ET
>"Overlapping genes are hard to spot, and most scientific computer programs are not designed to find them." Seriously? Even those of us here at UD have known about multiple reading frames for the same stretch of DNA for years now. EDTA

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