Link to bioRxiv paper:
Authors: Wang, W., Lin, X.-D., Zhang, H.-L., Wang, M.-R., Guan, X.-Q., Holmes, E. C., Zhang, Y.-Z.
To better understand the genetic diversity, host association and evolution of coronaviruses (CoVs) in China we analyzed a total of 696 rodents encompassing 16 different species sampled from Zhejiang and Yunnan provinces. Based on the reverse transcriptase PCR-based CoV screening CoVs of fecal samples and subsequent sequence analysis of the RdRp gene, we identified CoVs in diverse rodent species, comprising Apodemus agrarius, Apodemus latronum, Bandicota indica, Eothenomys miletus, E. eleusis, Rattus andamanesis, Rattus norvegicus, and R. tanezumi. Apodemus chevrieri was a particularly rich host, harboring 25 rodent CoVs. Genetic and phylogenetic analysis revealed the presence of three groups of CoVs carried by a range of rodents that were closely related to the Lucheng Rn rat coronavirus (LRNV), China Rattus coronavirus HKU24 (ChRCoV_HKU24) and Longquan Rl rat coronavirus (LRLV) identified previously. One newly identified A. chevrieri-associated virus closely related to LRNV lacked an NS2 gene. This virus had a similar genetic organization to AcCoV-JC34, recently discovered in the same rodent species in Yunnan, suggesting that it represents a new viral subtype. Notably, additional variants of LRNV were identified that contained putative nonstructural NS2b genes located downstream of the NS2 gene that were likely derived from the host genome. Recombination events were also identified in the ORF1a gene of Lijiang-71. In sum, these data reveal the substantial genetic diversity and genomic complexity of rodent-borne CoVs, and greatly extend our knowledge of these major wildlife virus reservoirs.
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