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  1. Abstract

    SARS-CoV-2 (CoV) is the etiological agent of the COVID-19 pandemic and evolves to evade both host immune systems and intervention strategies. We divided the CoV genome into 29 constituent regions and applied novel analytical approaches to identify associations between CoV genomic features and epidemiological metadata. Our results show that nonstructural protein 3 (nsp3) and Spike protein (S) have the highest variation and greatest correlation with the viral whole-genome variation. S protein variation is correlated with nsp3, nsp6, and 3′-to-5′ exonuclease variation. Country of origin and time since the start of the pandemic were the most influential metadata associated with genomic variation, while host sex and age were the least influential. We define a novel statistic—coherence—and show its utility in identifying geographic regions (populations) with unusually high (many new variants) or low (isolated) viral phylogenetic diversity. Interestingly, at both global and regional scales, we identify geographic locations with high coherence neighboring regions of low coherence; this emphasizes the utility of this metric to inform public health measures for disease spread. Our results provide a direction to prioritize genes associated with outcome predictors (e.g., health, therapeutic, and vaccine outcomes) and to improve DNA tests for predicting disease status.

  2. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by the production of autoantibodies predominantly to nuclear material. Many aspects of disease pathology are mediated by the deposition of nucleic acid containing immune complexes, which also induce the type 1interferon response, a characteristic feature of SLE. Notably, SLE is remarkably heterogeneous, with a variety of organs involved in different individuals, who also show variation in disease severity related to their ancestries. Here, we probed one potential contribution to disease heterogeneity as well as a possible source of immunoreactive nucleic acids by exploring the expression of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). We investigated the expression of HERVs in SLE and their potential relationship to SLE features and the expression of biochemical pathways, including the interferon gene signature (IGS). Towards this goal, we analyzed available and new RNA-Seq data from two independent whole blood studies using Telescope. We identified 481 locus specific HERV encoding regions that are differentially expressed between case and control individuals with only 14% overlap of differentially expressed HERVs between these two datasets. We identified significant differences between differentially expressed HERVs and non-differentially expressed HERVs between the two datasets. We also characterized the host differentially expressed genes and testedmore »their association with the differentially expressed HERVs. We found that differentially expressed HERVs were significantly more physically proximal to host differentially expressed genes than non-differentially expressed HERVs. Finally, we capitalized on locus specific resolution of HERV mapping to identify key molecular pathways impacted by differential HERV expression in people with SLE.« less