1. Evolutionary Biology
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Evidence for adaptive evolution in the receptor-binding domain of seasonal coronaviruses OC43 and 229E

  1. Kathryn E Kistler  Is a corresponding author
  2. Trevor Bedford
  1. University of Washington, United States
  2. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, United States
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e64509 doi: 10.7554/eLife.64509

Abstract

Seasonal coronaviruses (OC43, 229E, NL63 and HKU1) are endemic to the human population, regularly infecting and reinfecting humans while typically causing asymptomatic to mild respiratory infections. It is not known to what extent reinfection by these viruses is due to waning immune memory or antigenic drift of the viruses. Here, we address the influence of antigenic drift on immune evasion of seasonal coronaviruses. We provide evidence that at least two of these viruses, OC43 and 229E, are undergoing adaptive evolution in regions of the viral spike protein that are exposed to human humoral immunity. This suggests that reinfection may be due, in part, to positively-selected genetic changes in these viruses that enable them to escape recognition by the immune system. It is possible that, as with seasonal influenza, these adaptive changes in antigenic regions of the virus would necessitate continual reformulation of a vaccine made against them.

Data availability

All data used in this study can be found at https://www.viprbrc.org/ or in the Github repository for this project: https://github.com/blab/seasonal-cov-adaptive-evolution.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Kathryn E Kistler

    Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, United States
    For correspondence
    kistlerk@uw.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-3216-0020
  2. Trevor Bedford

    Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-4039-5794

Funding

National Science Foundation (Graduation Research Fellowship Program,DGE-1762114)

  • Kathryn E Kistler

Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew Biomedical Scholar,NIH R35 GM119774-01)

  • Trevor Bedford

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Daniel B Weissman, Emory University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: October 31, 2020
  2. Accepted: December 12, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: January 19, 2021 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: February 4, 2021 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2021, Kistler & Bedford

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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