Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is associated with fatal pulmonary fibrosis. Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) can be developed to induce RNA interference against SARS-CoV-2, and their susceptible target sites can be inferred by Argonaute crosslinking immunoprecipitation sequencing (AGO CLIP). Here, by reanalysing AGO CLIP data in RNA viruses, we delineated putative AGO binding in the conserved non-structural protein 12 (nsp12) region encoding RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) in SARS-CoV-2. We utilised the inferred AGO binding to optimise the local RNA folding parameter to calculate target accessibility and predict all potent siRNA target sites in the SARS-CoV-2 genome, avoiding sequence variants. siRNAs loaded onto AGO also repressed seed (positions 2–8)-matched transcripts by acting as microRNAs (miRNAs). To utilise this, we further screened 13 potential siRNAs whose seed sequences were matched to known antifibrotic miRNAs and confirmed their miRNA-like activity. A miR-27-mimicking siRNA designed to target the nsp12 region (27/RdRP) was validated to silence a synthesised nsp12 RNA mimic in lung cell lines and function as an antifibrotic miR-27 in regulating target transcriptomes related to TGF-β signalling. siRNA sequences with an antifibrotic miRNA-like activity that could synergistically treat COVID-19 are available online (http://clip.korea.ac.kr/covid19).
ASJC Scopus subject areas