The life-threatening coronaviruses MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 (SARS-CoV-1/2) have caused and will continue to cause enormous morbidity and mortality to humans. Virus-encoded noncoding RNAs are poorly understood in coronaviruses. Data mining of viral-infection-related RNA-sequencing data has resulted in the identification of 28 754, 720 and 3437 circRNAs encoded by MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, respectively. MERS-CoV exhibits much more prominent ability to encode circRNAs in all genomic regions than those of SARS-CoV-1/2. Viral circRNAs typically exhibit low expression levels. Moreover, majority of the viral circRNAs exhibit expressions only in the late stage of viral infection. Analysis of the competitive interactions of viral circRNAs, human miRNAs and mRNAs in MERS-CoV infections reveals that viral circRNAs up-regulated genes related to mRNA splicing and processing in the early stage of viral infection, and regulated genes involved in diverse functions including cancer, metabolism, autophagy, viral infection in the late stage of viral infection. Similar analysis in SARS-CoV-2 infections reveals that its viral circRNAs down-regulated genes associated with metabolic processes of cholesterol, alcohol, fatty acid and up-regulated genes associated with cellular responses to oxidative stress in the late stage of viral infection. A few genes regulated by viral circRNAs from both MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 were enriched in several biological processes such as response to reactive oxygen and centrosome localization. This study provides the first glimpse into viral circRNAs in three deadly coronaviruses and would serve as a valuable resource for further studies of circRNAs in coronaviruses.
The ceRNA network of viral circRNA, host miRNA and mRNA in SARS-CoV-2
Red represents up-regulation, and green represents down-regulation. Viral circRNAs, host miRNAs and mRNAs in the networks are represented as circles, squares and triangles, respectively.