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  1. Abstract

    Genes in SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses in the order ofNidoviralesare expressed by a process of discontinuous transcription which is distinct from alternative splicing in eukaryotes and is mediated by the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Here, we introduce the DISCONTINUOUS TRANSCRIPT ASSEMBLYproblem of finding transcripts and their abundances given an alignment of paired-end short reads under a maximum likelihood model that accounts for varying transcript lengths. We show, using simulations, that our method, JUMPER, outperforms existing methods for classical transcript assembly. On short-read data of SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV samples, we find that JUMPER not only identifies canonical transcripts that are part of the reference transcriptome, but also predicts expression of non-canonical transcripts that are supported by subsequent orthogonal analyses. Moreover, application of JUMPER on samples with and without treatment reveals viral drug response at the transcript level. As such, JUMPER enables detailed analyses ofNidoviralestranscriptomes under varying conditions.

  2. Elkins, Christopher A. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Monitoring the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 variants is necessary to make informed public health decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. PCR assays have received global attention, facilitating a rapid understanding of variant dynamics because they are more accessible and scalable than genome sequencing. However, as PCR assays target only a few mutations, their accuracy could be reduced when these mutations are not exclusive to the target variants. Here we introduce PRIMES, an algorithm that evaluates the sensitivity and specificity of SARS-CoV-2 variant-specific PCR assays across different geographical regions by incorporating sequences deposited in the GISAID database. Using PRIMES, we determined that the accuracy of several PCR assays decreased when applied beyond the geographic scope of the study in which the assays were developed. Subsequently, we used this tool to design Alpha and Delta variant-specific PCR assays for samples from Illinois, USA. In silico analysis using PRIMES determined the sensitivity/specificity to be 0.99/0.99 for the Alpha variant-specific PCR assay and 0.98/1.00 for the Delta variant-specific PCR assay in Illinois, respectively. We applied these two variant-specific PCR assays to six local sewage samples and determined the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant of either the wild type, the Alpha variant, or the Delta variant. Using next-generationmore »sequencing (NGS) of the spike (S) gene amplicons of the Delta variant-dominant samples, we found six mutations exclusive to the Delta variant (S:T19R, S:Δ156/157, S:L452R, S:T478K, S:P681R, and S:D950N). The consistency between the variant-specific PCR assays and the NGS results supports the applicability of PRIMES. IMPORTANCE Monitoring the introduction and prevalence of variants of concern (VOCs) and variants of interest (VOIs) in a community can help the local authorities make informed public health decisions. PCR assays can be designed to keep track of SARS-CoV-2 variants by measuring unique mutation markers that are exclusive to the target variants. However, the mutation markers may not be exclusive to the target variants because of regional and temporal differences in variant dynamics. We introduce PRIMES, an algorithm that enables the design of reliable PCR assays for variant detection. Because PCR is more accessible, scalable, and robust for sewage samples than sequencing technology, our findings will contribute to improving global SARS-CoV-2 variant surveillance.« less
  3. Leitner, Thomas (Ed.)
    Abstract Transcription regulatory sequences (TRSs), which occur upstream of structural and accessory genes as well as the 5’ end of a coronavirus genome, play a critical role in discontinuous transcription in coronaviruses. We introduce two problems collectively aimed at identifying these regulatory sequences as well as their associated genes. First, we formulate the TRS Identification problem of identifying TRS sites in a coronavirus genome sequence with prescribed gene locations. We introduce CORSID-A, an algorithm that solves this problem to optimality in polynomial time. We demonstrate that CORSID-A outperforms existing motif-based methods in identifying TRS sites in coronaviruses. Second, we demonstrate for the first time how TRS sites can be leveraged to identify gene locations in the coronavirus genome. To that end, we formulate the TRS and Gene Identification problem of simultaneously identifying TRS sites and gene locations in unannotated coronavirus genomes. We introduce CORSID to solve this problem, which includes a web-based visualization tool to explore the space of near-optimal solutions. We show that CORSID outperforms stateof-the-art gene finding methods in coronavirus genomes. Furthermore, we demonstrate that CORSID enables de novo identification of TRS sites and genes in previously unannotated coronavirus genomes. CORSID is the first method to perform accuratemore »and simultaneous identification of TRS sites and genes in coronavirus genomes without the use of any prior information.« less
  4. Abstract Motivation The combination of genomic and epidemiological data holds the potential to enable accurate pathogen transmission history inference. However, the inference of outbreak transmission histories remains challenging due to various factors such as within-host pathogen diversity and multi-strain infections. Current computational methods ignore within-host diversity and/or multi-strain infections, often failing to accurately infer the transmission history. Thus, there is a need for efficient computational methods for transmission tree inference that accommodate the complexities of real data. Results We formulate the direct transmission inference (DTI) problem for inferring transmission trees that support multi-strain infections given a timed phylogeny and additional epidemiological data. We establish hardness for the decision and counting version of the DTI problem. We introduce Transmission Tree Uniform Sampler (TiTUS), a method that uses SATISFIABILITY to almost uniformly sample from the space of transmission trees. We introduce criteria that prioritize parsimonious transmission trees that we subsequently summarize using a novel consensus tree approach. We demonstrate TiTUS’s ability to accurately reconstruct transmission trees on simulated data as well as a documented HIV transmission chain. Availability and implementation Supplementary information Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.