In Silico Prediction and Selection of Target Sequences in the SARS-CoV-2 RNA Genome for an Antiviral Attack

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The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has urged the development of protective vaccines and the search for specific antiviral drugs. The modern gene editing toolbox provides alternative methods, such as CRISPR-Cas and RNA interference, that can be adapted as antiviral approaches, and contribute to this search. The unique CRISPR-Cas13d system, with the small crRNA guide molecule, mediates a sequence-specific attack on RNA, and can be developed as an anti-coronavirus strategy. We analyzed the SARS-CoV-2 genome to localize the hypothetically best crRNA-annealing sites of 23 nucleotides based on our extensive expertise with sequence-specific antiviral strategies. We considered target sites of which the sequence is well-conserved among SARS-CoV-2 isolates. As we should prepare for a potential future outbreak of related viruses, we screened for targets that are conserved between SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV. To further broaden the search, we screened for targets that are conserved between SARS-CoV-2 and the more distantly related MERS-CoV, as well as the four other human coronaviruses (OC43, 229E, NL63, HKU1). Finally, we performed a search for pan-corona target sequences that are conserved among all these coronaviruses that are able to replicate in humans. This survey may contribute to the design of effective, safe, and escape-proof antiviral strategies to prepare for future pandemics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number385
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • COVID-19
  • CRISPR-Cas13d
  • SARS-CoV-2 genome

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