Coronaviruses (CoV) comprise a large group of emerging human and animal pathogens, including the highly pathogenic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) strains. The molecular mechanisms regulating emerging coronavirus pathogenesis are complex and include virus-host interactions associated with entry, replication, egress and innate immune control. Epigenetics research investigates the genetic and non-genetic factors that regulate phenotypic variation, usually caused by external and environmental factors that alter host expression patterns and performance without any change in the underlying genotype. Epigenetic modifications, such as histone modifications, DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling, and non-coding RNAs, function as important regulators that remodel host chromatin, altering host expression patterns and networks in a highly flexible manner. For most of the past two and a half decades, research has focused on the molecular mechanisms by which RNA viruses antagonize the signaling and sensing components that regulate induction of the host innate immune and antiviral defense programs upon infection. More recently, a growing body of evidence supports the hypothesis that viruses, even lytic RNA viruses that replicate in the cytoplasm, have developed intricate, highly evolved, and well-coordinated processes that are designed to regulate the host epigenome, and control host innate immune antiviral defense processes, thereby promoting robust virus replication and pathogenesis. In this article, we discuss the strategies that are used to evaluate the mechanisms by which viruses regulate the host epigenome, especially focusing on highly pathogenic respiratory RNA virus infections as a model. By combining measures of epigenome reorganization with RNA and proteomic datasets, we articulate a spatial-temporal data integration approach to identify regulatory genomic clusters and regions that play a crucial role in the host's innate immune response, thereby defining a new viral antagonism mechanism following emerging coronavirus infection.
Keywords: coronaviruses; epigenetics; systems biology.