Nonstructural proteins NS7b and NS8 are likely to be phylogenetically associated with evolution of 2019-nCoV
The seventh novel human infecting Betacoronavirus that causes pneumonia (2019 novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV) originated in Wuhan, China. The evolutionary relationship between 2019-nCoV and the other human respiratory illness-causing coronavirus is not closely related. We sought to characterize the relationship of the translated proteins of 2019-nCoV with other species of Orthocoronavirinae. A phylogenetic tree was constructed from the genome sequences. A cluster tree was developed from the profiles retrieved from the presence and absence of homologs of ten 2019-nCoV proteins. The combined data were used to characterize the relationship of the translated proteins of 2019-nCoV to other species of Orthocoronavirinae. Our analysis reliably suggests that 2019-nCoV is most closely related to BatCoV RaTG13 and belongs to subgenus Sarbecovirus of Betacoronavirus, together with SARS coronavirus and Bat-SARS-like coronavirus. The phylogenetic profiling cluster of homolog proteins of one annotated 2019-nCoV protein against other genome sequences revealed two clades of ten 2019-nCoV proteins. Clade 1 consisted of a group of conserved proteins in Orthocoronavirinae comprising Orf1ab polyprotein, Nucleocapsid protein, Spike glycoprotein, and Membrane protein. Clade 2 comprised six proteins exclusive to Sarbecovirus and Hibecovirus. Two of six Clade 2 nonstructural proteins, NS7b and NS8, were exclusively conserved among 2019-nCoV, BetaCoV_RaTG, and BatSARS-like Cov. NS7b and NS8 have previously been shown to affect immune response signaling in the SARS-CoV experimental model. Thus, we speculated that knowledge of the functional changes in the NS7b and NS8 proteins during evolution may provide important information to explore the human infective property of 2019-nCoV.