A team of researchers from the American Museum of Natural History has discovered a Mysterious new gene “hidden” in the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the Covid-19 disease. This is a segment in the virus genome that has been overlooked until now.

This gene, called ORF3d, is an example of what scientists call a overlapping geneThat is, “a gene within a gene,” explains lead researcher Chase Nelson. “Gene overlap may be one of the ways that coronaviruses have evolved to replicate efficiently, frustrate host immunity or be transmitted, “said Nelson it’s a statement.

According to Nelson, “Knowing that there are overlapping genes and how they work can reveal new ways to control the coronavirus, for example, through antiviral drugs. “

In the study, published in the journal eLife, the researchers identified that ORF3d, a new gene superimposed on SARS-CoV-2, also has the potential to encode a protein that is longer than expected. Furthermore, this gene is also present in a previously discovered pangolin coronavirus, they point out.

As stated in the research, the overlapping genes are difficult to detect and most scientific computer programs are not designed to find them.

“The lack of overlapping genes puts us in danger of overlooking important aspects from viral biology, “Nelson said.” In terms of genome size, SARS-CoV-2 and its relatives are among the longest RNA viruses out there. Therefore, they are perhaps more prone to ‘genomic tricks’ than other RNA viruses, “he added.

The principal investigator has pointed out that while they do not know the function of the ORF3d gene “or if it is clinically important, we predict that it is relatively unlikely to be detected by a T-cell response, in contrast to the antibody response. And perhaps that has something to do with how the gene could arise, “he commented.