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We are currently witnessing a major epidemic caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-
nCoV). The evolution of 2019-nCoV remains elusive. We found 4 insertions in the spike
glycoprotein (S) which are unique to the 2019-nCoV and are not present in other coronaviruses.
Importantly, amino acid residues in all the 4 inserts have identity or similarity to those in the HIV-
1 gp120 or HIV-1 Gag. Interestingly, despite the inserts being discontinuous on the primary
amino acid sequence, 3D-modelling of the 2019-nCoV suggests that they converge to constitute
the receptor binding site. The finding of 4 unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV, all of which have
identity /similarity to amino acid residues in key structural proteins of HIV-1 is unlikely to be
fortuitous in nature. This work provides yet unknown insights on 2019-nCoV and sheds light on
the evolution and pathogenicity of this virus with important implications for diagnosis of this virus.