Coronaviruses (CoVs) are enveloped positive-sense RNA viruses. CoVs contain a large genome, usually 25 to 32 kb, and can infect a variety of species, including animals and humans. Infections by CoVs are usually mild unless infected humans are immuno-compromised. However, the newly emerged CoVs are now extremely pathogen. SARS-CoV caused the global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 to 2003. MERS-CoV caused another outbreak, the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012. The most recent outbreak caused by SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) exploded into a worldwide pandemic. Figure 1 illustrates the genomic organization of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Figure 1: Genomic organization of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
SARS-CoV-2 papain-like protease
The papain-like protease (PLpro) is one of two cysteine proteases encoded by coronavirus genomes. PLpro proteolytically processes the virus polyproteins. PLpro has significant in vitro deubiquitinating and de-ISGylation activities. However, presently the exact mechanism of how this works is still unclear.
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