It was always there, but “hidden” and until recently no one had discovered it.
It is a mysterious gene called ORF3d and found within another gene in the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the covid-19 disease and the current pandemic.
This was discovered by a group of scientists led by researcher Chase Nelson, from the Institute of Comparative Genomics of the Museum of Natural History in New York, United States.
While the specific function of this overlapping gene remains to be investigated, as it is also known, the researchers consider that discovering these types of genes “may reveal new control pathways for the virus, for example, antiviral drugs.”
Nor do they rule out that this gene could contribute to the unique biology of the virus and its potential Househumble.
The findings were published in the scientific journal eLife.
Why this discovery matters
Since the pandemic broke out, scientists around the world have been working to better understand the virus and thus succeed in the containment effort.
According to the study led by Nelson, to answer all the questions left by the coronavirus necessary understand viral genomes with precision and breadth.
“Overlapping genes are perhaps one of the ways in which coronaviruses have evolved to replicate efficiently, thwart the immunity of the infected, and transmit themselves,” said Nelson.
An overlapping gene remains hidden in a nucleotide chain because of the way it overlaps the encoded sequences of other genes.
According to the study, these genes are difficult to identifyas most scientific computer programs are not designed to find them. However, they are common within viruses.
“Due to the size of its genome, SARS-CoV-2 and its resemblances are among the longest RNA viruses in existence. Perhaps they are more likely to contain this ‘genomic hoax’ ”, adds Nelson.
What is known about the function of this gene
As this hidden gene was recently discovered, more research is needed to find out all its implications.
“We still do not know its function and clinical significance, but we predict that it is relatively unlikely that this gene is detected by the response of T cellsas opposed to an antibody response, ”says Nelson.
T cells are a species of immune cells, whose main purpose is to identify and kill invading pathogens or infected cells.
They do this by using proteins on their surface, which in turn can adhere to proteins on the surface of these imposters.
The researchers also discovered this gene in a pangolin coronavirus, which could reflect gains and losses of this gene during the evolution of SARS-Cov-2 and other similar viruses.
The study concluded the need to delve further into the discovery, since “Overlapping genes are an important part of viral biology and they deserve more attention ”.
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