Jesse D. Bloom and Richard A. Neher
Virus Evolution, in press, vol. , , 2023
Knowledge of the fitness effects of mutations to SARS-CoV-2 can inform assessment of new variants, design of therapeutics resistant to escape, and understanding of the functions of viral proteins. However, experimentally measuring effects of mutations is challenging: we lack tractable lab assays for many SARS-CoV-2 proteins, and comprehensive deep mutational scanning has been applied to only two SARS-CoV-2 proteins. Here we develop an approach that leverages millions of publicly available SARS-CoV-2 sequences to estimate effects of mutations. We first calculate how many independent occurrences of each mutation are expected to be observed along the SARS-CoV-2 phylogeny in the absence of selection. We then compare these expected observations to the actual observations to estimate the effect of each mutation. These estimates correlate well with deep mutational scanning measurements. For most genes, synonymous mutations are nearly neutral, stop-codon mutations are deleterious, and amino-acid mutations have a range of effects. However, some viral accessory proteins are under little to no selection. We provide interactive visualizations of effects of mutations to all SARS-CoV-2 proteins (https://jbloomlab.github.io/SARS2-mut-fitness). The framework we describe is applicable to any virus for which the number of available sequences is sufficiently large that many independent occurrences of each neutral mutation are observed.