About this Research Topic
Coronaviruses have been responsible for three major viral diseases (SARS, MERS and COVID-19) in the last two decades, with the most recent outbreak, COVID-19, forcing society to undertake measures unprecedented in the modern era for slowing viral dissemination at the global scale. In all three cases, the outbreak at the level of the human population has been the result of a zoonotic transmission, underlining, on the one hand, the importance of the animal reservoirs for the evolution of viral variants with new potentials, and, on the other, the extreme ease with which coronaviruses can adapt to the human host. Understanding the processes that govern the evolution of this sub-family of Coronaviridae, and which aspects of their replication strategy are recurrently responsible for their adaptation to the human host, principally mutation and recombination, is crucial for medical surveillance and for increasing knowledge on research areas instrumental for guiding the setting up of antiviral strategies in the event of new outbreaks threatening the human population.
This Research Topic aims to tackle the problem of cross-species transmission of animal coronaviruses to humans. Extensive analysis of the phylogeny of the virus responsible for the ongoing pandemic (COVID-19) can provide a hypothesis, particularly through the analysis of duplicated genes and of genetic recombination, for identifying the coronavirus genes involved in the adaptation to new hosts. Combining this data with pre-existing knowledge on animal reservoirs of coronaviruses, and with the molecular characterization of other coronaviruses that have crossed the species barrier, could facilitate the connection of distinct pieces of information to better understand the emergence of common traits.
This Research Topic will accept articles focused on the molecular mechanisms and processes underlying cross species transmission and evolution of coronaviruses. Reviews as well as original articles will be welcomed on (but are not restricted to):
• The identification of coronavirus genes involved in the adaptation to new hosts, particularly humans
• Comparative phylogenetic studies studying processes within and between coronavirus lineages
• Understanding the constraints (mechanistic, protein structure/function, epistatic and immunological) imposed to the evolution of these crucial genes
• The study of the mechanisms of gene acquisition, duplication and genetic recombination and their role in tracing evolutionary trajectories of coronaviruses,
• The requirements for receptor usage, host-switching, cell entry and determinants of infectivity
• Characterization of animal reservoirs for coronaviruses and the role of intermediate species in spillover
Keywords: coronavirus, molecular evolution, cross species transmission, recombination
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.