Abstract. Many large national and transnational studies have been dedicated to the analysis of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genome, most of which focused on missense and nonsense mutations. However, approximately 30 per cent of the SARS-CoV-2 variants are synonymous, therefore changing the target codon without affecting the corresponding protein sequence.
By performing a large-scale analysis of sequencing data generated from almost 400,000 SARS-CoV-2 samples, we show that silent mutations increasing the similarity of viral codons to the human ones tend to fixate in the viral genome overtime. This indicates that SARS-CoV-2 codon usage is adapting to the human host, likely improving its effectiveness in using the human aminoacyl-tRNA set through the accumulation of deceitfully neutral silent mutations.
One-Sentence Summary. Synonymous SARS-CoV-2 mutations related to the activity of different mutational processes may positively impact viral evolution by increasing its adaptation to the human codon usage.