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1.  Endogenous pararetroviral sequences in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and related species 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:24.
Endogenous pararetroviral sequences (EPRVs) are a recently discovered class of repetitive sequences that is broadly distributed in the plant kingdom. The potential contribution of EPRVs to plant pathogenicity or, conversely, to virus resistance is just beginning to be explored. Some members of the family Solanaceae are particularly rich in EPRVs. In previous work, EPRVs have been characterized molecularly in various species of Nicotiana including N.tabacum (tobacco) and Solanum tuberosum (potato). Here we describe a family of EPRVs in cultivated tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) and a wild relative (S.habrochaites).
Molecular cloning and DNA sequence analysis revealed that tomato EPRVs (named LycEPRVs) are most closely related to those in tobacco. The sequence similarity of LycEPRVs in S.lycopersicum and S.habrochaites indicates they are potentially derived from the same pararetrovirus. DNA blot analysis revealed a similar genomic organization in the two species, but also some independent excision or insertion events after species separation, or flanking sequence divergence. LycEPRVs share with the tobacco elements a disrupted genomic structure and frequent association with retrotransposons. Fluorescence in situ hybridization revealed that copies of LycEPRV are dispersed on all chromosomes in predominantly heterochromatic regions. Methylation of LycEPRVs was detected in CHG and asymmetric CHH nucleotide groups. Although normally quiescent EPRVs can be reactivated and produce symptoms of infection in some Nicotiana interspecific hybrids, a similar pathogenicity of LycEPRVs could not be demonstrated in Solanum L. section Lycopersicon [Mill.] hybrids. Even in healthy plants, however, transcripts derived from multiple LycEPRV loci and short RNAs complementary to LycEPRVs were detected and were elevated upon infection with heterologous viruses encoding suppressors of PTGS.
The analysis of LycEPRVs provides further evidence for the extensive invasion of pararetroviral sequences into the genomes of solanaceous plants. The detection of asymmetric CHH methylation and short RNAs, which are hallmarks of RNAi in plants, suggests that LycEPRVs are controlled by an RNA-mediated silencing mechanism.
PMCID: PMC1899175  PMID: 17517142
2.  Evasion of Short Interfering RNA-Directed Antiviral Silencing in Musa acuminata Persistently Infected with Six Distinct Banana Streak Pararetroviruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(19):11516-11528.
Vegetatively propagated crop plants often suffer from infections with persistent RNA and DNA viruses. Such viruses appear to evade the plant defenses that normally restrict viral replication and spread. The major antiviral defense mechanism is based on RNA silencing generating viral short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that can potentially repress viral genes posttranscriptionally through RNA cleavage and transcriptionally through DNA cytosine methylation. Here we examined the RNA silencing machinery of banana plants persistently infected with six pararetroviruses after many years of vegetative propagation. Using deep sequencing, we reconstructed consensus master genomes of the viruses and characterized virus-derived and endogenous small RNAs. Consistent with the presence of endogenous siRNAs that can potentially establish and maintain DNA methylation, the banana genomic DNA was extensively methylated in both healthy and virus-infected plants. A novel class of abundant 20-nucleotide (nt) endogenous small RNAs with 5′-terminal guanosine was identified. In all virus-infected plants, 21- to 24-nt viral siRNAs accumulated at relatively high levels (up to 22% of the total small RNA population) and covered the entire circular viral DNA genomes in both orientations. The hotspots of 21-nt and 22-nt siRNAs occurred within open reading frame (ORF) I and II and the 5′ portion of ORF III, while 24-nt siRNAs were more evenly distributed along the viral genome. Despite the presence of abundant viral siRNAs of different size classes, the viral DNA was largely free of cytosine methylation. Thus, the virus is able to evade siRNA-directed DNA methylation and thereby avoid transcriptional silencing. This evasion of silencing likely contributes to the persistence of pararetroviruses in banana plants.
IMPORTANCE We report that DNA pararetroviruses in Musa acuminata banana plants are able to evade DNA cytosine methylation and transcriptional gene silencing, despite being targeted by the host silencing machinery generating abundant 21- to 24-nucleotide short interfering RNAs. At the same time, the banana genomic DNA is extensively methylated in both healthy and virus-infected plants. Our findings shed light on the siRNA-generating gene silencing machinery of banana and provide a possible explanation why episomal pararetroviruses can persist in plants whereas true retroviruses with an obligatory genome-integration step in their replication cycle do not exist in plants.
PMCID: PMC4178793  PMID: 25056897
3.  Cross-Species Functionality of Pararetroviral Elements Driving Ribosome Shunting 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(2):e1650.
Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) and Rice tungro bacilliform virus (RTBV) belong to distinct genera of pararetroviruses infecting dicot and monocot plants, respectively. In both viruses, polycistronic translation of pregenomic (pg) RNA is initiated by shunting ribosomes that bypass a large region of the pgRNA leader with several short (s)ORFs and a stable stem-loop structure. The shunt requires translation of a 5′-proximal sORF terminating near the stem. In CaMV, mutations knocking out this sORF nearly abolish shunting and virus viability.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we show that two distant regions of the CaMV leader that form a minimal shunt configuration comprising the sORF, a bottom part of the stem, and a shunt landing sequence can be replaced by heterologous sequences that form a structurally similar configuration in RTBV without any dramatic effect on shunt-mediated translation and CaMV infectivity. The CaMV-RTBV chimeric leader sequence was largely stable over five viral passages in turnip plants: a few alterations that did eventually occur in the virus progenies are indicative of fine tuning of the chimeric sequence during adaptation to a new host.
Our findings demonstrate cross-species functionality of pararetroviral cis-elements driving ribosome shunting and evolutionary conservation of the shunt mechanism.
We are grateful to Matthias Müller and Sandra Pauli for technical assistance. This work was initiated at Friedrich Miescher Institute (Basel, Switzerland). We thank Prof. Thomas Boller for hosting the group at the Institute of Botany.
PMCID: PMC2241666  PMID: 18286203
4.  Widespread Endogenization of Genome Sequences of Non-Retroviral RNA Viruses into Plant Genomes 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(7):e1002146.
Non-retroviral RNA virus sequences (NRVSs) have been found in the chromosomes of vertebrates and fungi, but not plants. Here we report similarly endogenized NRVSs derived from plus-, negative-, and double-stranded RNA viruses in plant chromosomes. These sequences were found by searching public genomic sequence databases, and, importantly, most NRVSs were subsequently detected by direct molecular analyses of plant DNAs. The most widespread NRVSs were related to the coat protein (CP) genes of the family Partitiviridae which have bisegmented dsRNA genomes, and included plant- and fungus-infecting members. The CP of a novel fungal virus (Rosellinia necatrix partitivirus 2, RnPV2) had the greatest sequence similarity to Arabidopsis thaliana ILR2, which is thought to regulate the activities of the phytohormone auxin, indole-3-acetic acid (IAA). Furthermore, partitivirus CP-like sequences much more closely related to plant partitiviruses than to RnPV2 were identified in a wide range of plant species. In addition, the nucleocapsid protein genes of cytorhabdoviruses and varicosaviruses were found in species of over 9 plant families, including Brassicaceae and Solanaceae. A replicase-like sequence of a betaflexivirus was identified in the cucumber genome. The pattern of occurrence of NRVSs and the phylogenetic analyses of NRVSs and related viruses indicate that multiple independent integrations into many plant lineages may have occurred. For example, one of the NRVSs was retained in Ar. thaliana but not in Ar. lyrata or other related Camelina species, whereas another NRVS displayed the reverse pattern. Our study has shown that single- and double-stranded RNA viral sequences are widespread in plant genomes, and shows the potential of genome integrated NRVSs to contribute to resolve unclear phylogenetic relationships of plant species.
Author Summary
Eukaryotic genomes contain sequences that have originated from DNA viruses and reverse-transcribing viruses, i.e., retroviruses, pararetroviruses (DNA viruses), and transposons. However, the sequences of non-retroviral RNA viruses, which are unable to convert their genomes to DNA, were until recently considered not to be integrated into eukaryotic nuclear genomes. We present evidence for multiple independent events of horizontal gene transfer from a wide range of RNA viruses, including plus-sense, minus-sense, and double-stranded RNA viruses, into the genomes of distantly related plant lineages. Some non-retroviral integrated RNA viral sequences are conserved across genera within a plant family, whereas others are retained only in a limited number of species in a genus. Integration profiles of non-retroviral integrated RNA viral sequences demonstrate the potential of these sequences to serve as powerful molecular tools for deciphering phylogenetic relationships among related plants. Moreover, this study highlights plants co-opting non-retroviral RNA virus sequences, and provides insights into plant genome evolution and interplay between non-reverse-transcribing RNA viruses and their hosts.
PMCID: PMC3136472  PMID: 21779172
5.  RNA Silencing Is Resistant to Low-Temperature in Grapevine 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82652.
RNA silencing is a natural defence mechanism against viruses in plants, and transgenes expressing viral RNA-derived sequences were previously shown to confer silencing-based enhanced resistance against the cognate virus in several species. However, RNA silencing was shown to dysfunction at low temperatures in several species, questioning the relevance of this strategy in perennial plants such as grapevines, which are often exposed to low temperatures during the winter season. Here, we show that inverted-repeat (IR) constructs trigger a highly efficient silencing reaction in all somatic tissues in grapevines. Similarly to other plant species, IR-derived siRNAs trigger production of secondary transitive siRNAs. However, and in sharp contrast to other species tested to date where RNA silencing is hindered at low temperature, this process remained active in grapevine cultivated at 4°C. Consistently, siRNA levels remained steady in grapevines cultivated between 26°C and 4°C, whereas they are severely decreased in Arabidopsis grown at 15°C and almost undetectable at 4°C. Altogether, these results demonstrate that RNA silencing operates in grapevine in a conserved manner but is resistant to far lower temperatures than ever described in other species.
PMCID: PMC3869719  PMID: 24376561
6.  De Novo Reconstruction of Consensus Master Genomes of Plant RNA and DNA Viruses from siRNAs 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88513.
Virus-infected plants accumulate abundant, 21–24 nucleotide viral siRNAs which are generated by the evolutionary conserved RNA interference (RNAi) machinery that regulates gene expression and defends against invasive nucleic acids. Here we show that, similar to RNA viruses, the entire genome sequences of DNA viruses are densely covered with siRNAs in both sense and antisense orientations. This implies pervasive transcription of both coding and non-coding viral DNA in the nucleus, which generates double-stranded RNA precursors of viral siRNAs. Consistent with our finding and hypothesis, we demonstrate that the complete genomes of DNA viruses from Caulimoviridae and Geminiviridae families can be reconstructed by deep sequencing and de novo assembly of viral siRNAs using bioinformatics tools. Furthermore, we prove that this ‘siRNA omics’ approach can be used for reliable identification of the consensus master genome and its microvariants in viral quasispecies. Finally, we utilized this approach to reconstruct an emerging DNA virus and two viroids associated with economically-important red blotch disease of grapevine, and to rapidly generate a biologically-active clone representing the wild type master genome of Oilseed rape mosaic virus. Our findings show that deep siRNA sequencing allows for de novo reconstruction of any DNA or RNA virus genome and its microvariants, making it suitable for universal characterization of evolving viral quasispecies as well as for studying the mechanisms of siRNA biogenesis and RNAi-based antiviral defense.
PMCID: PMC3921208  PMID: 24523907
7.  Short ORF-Dependent Ribosome Shunting Operates in an RNA Picorna-Like Virus and a DNA Pararetrovirus that Cause Rice Tungro Disease 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(3):e1002568.
Rice tungro disease is caused by synergistic interaction of an RNA picorna-like virus Rice tungro spherical virus (RTSV) and a DNA pararetrovirus Rice tungro bacilliform virus (RTBV). It is spread by insects owing to an RTSV-encoded transmission factor. RTBV has evolved a ribosome shunt mechanism to initiate translation of its pregenomic RNA having a long and highly structured leader. We found that a long leader of RTSV genomic RNA remarkably resembles the RTBV leader: both contain several short ORFs (sORFs) and potentially fold into a large stem-loop structure with the first sORF terminating in front of the stem basal helix. Using translation assays in rice protoplasts and wheat germ extracts, we show that, like in RTBV, both initiation and proper termination of the first sORF translation in front of the stem are required for shunt-mediated translation of a reporter ORF placed downstream of the RTSV leader. The base pairing that forms the basal helix is required for shunting, but its sequence can be varied. Shunt efficiency in RTSV is lower than in RTBV. But in addition to shunting the RTSV leader sequence allows relatively efficient linear ribosome migration, which also contributes to translation initiation downstream of the leader. We conclude that RTSV and RTBV have developed a similar, sORF-dependent shunt mechanism possibly to adapt to the host translation system and/or coordinate their life cycles. Given that sORF-dependent shunting also operates in a pararetrovirus Cauliflower mosaic virus and likely in other pararetroviruses that possess a conserved shunt configuration in their leaders it is tempting to propose that RTSV may have acquired shunt cis-elements from RTBV during their co-existence.
Author Summary
Ribosome shunting, first discovered in plant pararetroviruses, is a translation initiation mechanism that combines 5′ end-dependent scanning and internal initiation and allows a bypass of highly-structured leaders of certain viral and cellular mRNAs. Here we demonstrate that a similar shunt mechanism has been developed by the RNA picorna-like virus RTSV and the DNA pararetrovirus RTBV that form a disease complex in rice. Leader sequences of the RTSV genomic RNA and the RTBV pregenomic RNA possess a conserved shunt configuration with a 5′-proximal short ORF (sORF1) terminating in front of a large stem-loop structure. Like in RTBV and a related pararetrovirus Cauliflower mosaic virus, shunt-mediated translation downstream of the RTSV leader depends on initiation and proper termination of sORF1 translation and on formation of the basal helix of the downstream secondary structure. Given that RTBV-like shunt elements with identical sequence motifs are present in all RTSV isolates but absent in related picorna-like viruses, it is likely that RTSV could have acquired these elements after its encounter with RTBV. Alternatively, the RTSV shunt elements could have evolved independently to adapt to the rice translation machinery. Our study highlights on-going genetic exchange and co-adaptation to the host in emerging viral disease complexes.
PMCID: PMC3291615  PMID: 22396650
8.  A Leafhopper-Transmissible DNA Virus with Novel Evolutionary Lineage in the Family Geminiviridae Implicated in Grapevine Redleaf Disease by Next-Generation Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e64194.
A graft-transmissible disease displaying red veins, red blotches and total reddening of leaves in red-berried wine grape (Vitis vinifera L.) cultivars was observed in commercial vineyards. Next-generation sequencing technology was used to identify etiological agent(s) associated with this emerging disease, designated as grapevine redleaf disease (GRD). High quality RNA extracted from leaves of grape cultivars Merlot and Cabernet Franc with and without GRD symptoms was used to prepare cDNA libraries. Assembly of highly informative sequence reads generated from Illumina sequencing of cDNA libraries, followed by bioinformatic analyses of sequence contigs resulted in specific identification of taxonomically disparate viruses and viroids in samples with and without GRD symptoms. A single-stranded DNA virus, tentatively named Grapevine redleaf-associated virus (GRLaV), and Grapevine fanleaf virus were detected only in grapevines showing GRD symptoms. In contrast, Grapevine rupestris stem pitting-associated virus, Hop stunt viroid, Grapevine yellow speckle viroid 1, Citrus exocortis viroid and Citrus exocortis Yucatan viroid were present in both symptomatic and non-symptomatic grapevines. GRLaV was transmitted by the Virginia creeper leafhopper (Erythroneura ziczac Walsh) from grapevine-to-grapevine under greenhouse conditions. Molecular and phylogenetic analyses indicated that GRLaV, almost identical to recently reported Grapevine Cabernet Franc-associated virus from New York and Grapevine red blotch-associated virus from California, represents an evolutionarily distinct lineage in the family Geminiviridae with genome characteristics distinct from other leafhopper-transmitted geminiviruses. GRD significantly reduced fruit yield and affected berry quality parameters demonstrating negative impacts of the disease. Higher quantities of carbohydrates were present in symptomatic leaves suggesting their possible role in the expression of redleaf symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3673993  PMID: 23755117
9.  Evolution of Endogenous Sequences of Banana Streak Virus: What Can We Learn from Banana (Musa sp.) Evolution?▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(14):7346-7359.
Endogenous plant pararetroviruses (EPRVs) are viral sequences of the family Caulimoviridae integrated into the nuclear genome of numerous plant species. The ability of some endogenous sequences of Banana streak viruses (eBSVs) in the genome of banana (Musa sp.) to induce infections just like the virus itself was recently demonstrated (P. Gayral et al., J. Virol. 83:6697-6710, 2008). Although eBSVs probably arose from accidental events, infectious eBSVs constitute an extreme case of parasitism, as well as a newly described strategy for vertical virus transmission in plants. We investigated the early evolutionary stages of infectious eBSV for two distinct BSV species—GF (BSGFV) and Imové (BSImV)—through the study of their distribution, insertion polymorphism, and structure evolution among selected banana genotypes representative of the diversity of 60 wild Musa species and genotypes. To do so, the historical frame of host evolution was analyzed by inferring banana phylogeny from two chloroplast regions—matK and trnL-trnF—as well as from the nuclear genome, using 19 microsatellite loci. We demonstrated that both BSV species integrated recently in banana evolution, circa 640,000 years ago. The two infectious eBSVs were subjected to different selective pressures and showed distinct levels of rearrangement within their final structure. In addition, the molecular phylogenies of integrated and nonintegrated BSVs enabled us to establish the phylogenetic origins of eBSGFV and eBSImV.
PMCID: PMC2898222  PMID: 20427523
10.  Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 
Grapevine leafroll disease (GLD) is one of the most important grapevine viral diseases affecting grapevines worldwide. The impact on vine health, crop yield, and quality is difficult to assess due to a high number of variables, but significant economic losses are consistently reported over the lifespan of a vineyard if intervention strategies are not implemented. Several viruses from the family Closteroviridae are associated with GLD. However, Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 (GLRaV-3), the type species for the genus Ampelovirus, is regarded as the most important causative agent. Here we provide a general overview on various aspects of GLRaV-3, with an emphasis on the latest advances in the characterization of the genome. The full genome of several isolates have recently been sequenced and annotated, revealing the existence of several genetic variants. The classification of these variants, based on their genome sequence, will be discussed and a guideline is presented to facilitate future comparative studies. The characterization of sgRNAs produced during the infection cycle of GLRaV-3 has given some insight into the replication strategy and the putative functionality of the ORFs. The latest nucleotide sequence based molecular diagnostic techniques were shown to be more sensitive than conventional serological assays and although ELISA is not as sensitive it remains valuable for high-throughput screening and complementary to molecular diagnostics. The application of next-generation sequencing is proving to be a valuable tool to study the complexity of viral infection as well as plant pathogen interaction. Next-generation sequencing data can provide information regarding disease complexes, variants of viral species, and abundance of particular viruses. This information can be used to develop more accurate diagnostic assays. Reliable virus screening in support of robust grapevine certification programs remains the cornerstone of GLD management.
PMCID: PMC3627144  PMID: 23596440
grapevine leafroll disease; GLRaV-3; ampelovirus; Closteroviridae; genetic variants
11.  Deep sequencing evidence from single grapevine plants reveals a virome dominated by mycoviruses 
Archives of Virology  2010;156(3):397-403.
We have characterized the virome in single grapevines by 454 high-throughput sequencing of double-stranded RNA recovered from the vine stem. The analysis revealed a substantial set of sequences similar to those of fungal viruses. Twenty-six putative fungal virus groups were identified from a single plant source. These represented half of all known mycoviral families including the Chrysoviridae, Hypoviridae, Narnaviridae, Partitiviridae, and Totiviridae. Three of the mycoviruses were associated with Botrytis cinerea, a common fungal pathogen of grapes. Most of the rest appeared to be undescribed. The presence of viral sequences identified by BLAST analysis was confirmed by sequencing PCR products generated from the starting material using primers designed from the genomic sequences of putative mycoviruses. To further characterize these sequences as fungal viruses, fungi from the grapevine tissue were cultured and screened with the same PCR probes. Five of the mycoviruses identified in the total grapevine extract were identified again in extracts of the fungal cultures.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00705-010-0869-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3044836  PMID: 21140178
12.  Six RNA Viruses and Forty-One Hosts: Viral Small RNAs and Modulation of Small RNA Repertoires in Vertebrate and Invertebrate Systems 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(2):e1000764.
We have used multiplexed high-throughput sequencing to characterize changes in small RNA populations that occur during viral infection in animal cells. Small RNA-based mechanisms such as RNA interference (RNAi) have been shown in plant and invertebrate systems to play a key role in host responses to viral infection. Although homologs of the key RNAi effector pathways are present in mammalian cells, and can launch an RNAi-mediated degradation of experimentally targeted mRNAs, any role for such responses in mammalian host-virus interactions remains to be characterized. Six different viruses were examined in 41 experimentally susceptible and resistant host systems. We identified virus-derived small RNAs (vsRNAs) from all six viruses, with total abundance varying from “vanishingly rare” (less than 0.1% of cellular small RNA) to highly abundant (comparable to abundant micro-RNAs “miRNAs”). In addition to the appearance of vsRNAs during infection, we saw a number of specific changes in host miRNA profiles. For several infection models investigated in more detail, the RNAi and Interferon pathways modulated the abundance of vsRNAs. We also found evidence for populations of vsRNAs that exist as duplexed siRNAs with zero to three nucleotide 3′ overhangs. Using populations of cells carrying a Hepatitis C replicon, we observed strand-selective loading of siRNAs onto Argonaute complexes. These experiments define vsRNAs as one possible component of the interplay between animal viruses and their hosts.
Author Summary
Short RNAs derived from invading viruses with RNA genomes are important components of antiviral immunity in plants, worms and flies. The regulated generation of these short RNAs, and their engagement by the immune apparatus, is essential for inhibiting viral growth in these organisms. Mammals have the necessary protein components to generate these viral-derived short RNAs (“vsRNAs”), raising the question of whether vsRNAs in mammals are a general feature of infections with RNA viruses. Our work with Hepatitis C, Polio, Dengue, Vesicular Stomatitis, and West Nile viruses in a broad host repertoire demonstrates the generality of RNA virus-derived vsRNA production, and the ability of the cellular short RNA apparatus to engage these vsRNAs in mammalian cells. Detailed analyses of vsRNA and host-derived short RNA populations demonstrate both common and virus-specific features of the interplay between viral infection and short RNA populations. The vsRNA populations described in this work represent a novel dimension in both viral pathogenesis and host response.
PMCID: PMC2820531  PMID: 20169186
13.  Roles and Programming of Arabidopsis ARGONAUTE Proteins during Turnip Mosaic Virus Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(3):e1004755.
In eukaryotes, ARGONAUTE proteins (AGOs) associate with microRNAs (miRNAs), short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), and other classes of small RNAs to regulate target RNA or target loci. Viral infection in plants induces a potent and highly specific antiviral RNA silencing response characterized by the formation of virus-derived siRNAs. Arabidopsis thaliana has ten AGO genes of which AGO1, AGO2, and AGO7 have been shown to play roles in antiviral defense. A genetic analysis was used to identify and characterize the roles of AGO proteins in antiviral defense against Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) in Arabidopsis. AGO1, AGO2 and AGO10 promoted anti-TuMV defense in a modular way in various organs, with AGO2 providing a prominent antiviral role in leaves. AGO5, AGO7 and AGO10 had minor effects in leaves. AGO1 and AGO10 had overlapping antiviral functions in inflorescence tissues after systemic movement of the virus, although the roles of AGO1 and AGO10 accounted for only a minor amount of the overall antiviral activity. By combining AGO protein immunoprecipitation with high-throughput sequencing of associated small RNAs, AGO2, AGO10, and to a lesser extent AGO1 were shown to associate with siRNAs derived from silencing suppressor (HC-Pro)-deficient TuMV-AS9, but not with siRNAs derived from wild-type TuMV. Co-immunoprecipitation and small RNA sequencing revealed that viral siRNAs broadly associated with wild-type HC-Pro during TuMV infection. These results support the hypothesis that suppression of antiviral silencing during TuMV infection, at least in part, occurs through sequestration of virus-derived siRNAs away from antiviral AGO proteins by HC-Pro. These findings indicate that distinct AGO proteins function as antiviral modules, and provide a molecular explanation for the silencing suppressor activity of HC-Pro.
Author Summary
RNA silencing is a primary, adaptive defense system against viruses in plants. Viruses have evolved counter-defensive mechanisms that inhibit RNA silencing through the activity of silencing suppressor proteins. Understanding how antiviral silencing is controlled, and how suppressor proteins function, is essential for understanding how plants normally resist viruses, why some viruses are highly virulent in different hosts, and how sustainable antiviral resistance strategies can be deployed in agricultural settings. We used a mutant version of Turnip mosaic virus lacking a functional silencing suppressor (HC-Pro) to understand the genetic requirements for resistance in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We focused on ARGONAUTE proteins, which have long been hypothesized to bind short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) derived from virus genomes for use as sequence-specific guides to recognize and target viral RNA for degradation or repression. We demonstrated specialized antiviral roles for specific ARGONAUTES and showed that several can bind viral siRNAs from across the entire viral genome. However, ARGONAUTE proteins are only loaded with virus-derived siRNAs in the absence of HC-Pro, which we showed binds siRNAs from the viral genome. This indicates that several AGO proteins, which collectively are necessary for full anti-TuMV defense, need to properly load virus-derived siRNAs to execute their antiviral roles.
PMCID: PMC4373807  PMID: 25806948
14.  A Single Banana Streak Virus Integration Event in the Banana Genome as the Origin of Infectious Endogenous Pararetrovirus▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(13):6697-6710.
Sequencing of plant nuclear genomes reveals the widespread presence of integrated viral sequences known as endogenous pararetroviruses (EPRVs). Banana is one of the three plant species known to harbor infectious EPRVs. Musa balbisiana carries integrated copies of Banana streak virus (BSV), which are infectious by releasing virions in interspecific hybrids. Here, we analyze the organization of the EPRV of BSV Goldfinger (BSGfV) present in the wild diploid M. balbisiana cv. Pisang Klutuk Wulung (PKW) revealed by the study of Musa bacterial artificial chromosome resources and interspecific genetic cross. cv. PKW contains two similar EPRVs of BSGfV. Genotyping of these integrants and studies of their segregation pattern show an allelic insertion. Despite the fact that integrated BSGfV has undergone extensive rearrangement, both EPRVs contain the full-length viral genome. The high degree of sequence conservation between the integrated and episomal form of the virus indicates a recent integration event; however, only one allele is infectious. Analysis of BSGfV EPRV segregation among an F1 population from an interspecific genetic cross revealed that these EPRV sequences correspond to two alleles originating from a single integration event. We describe here for the first time the full genomic and genetic organization of the two EPRVs of BSGfV present in cv. PKW in response to the challenge facing both scientists and breeders to identify and generate genetic resources free from BSV. We discuss the consequences of this unique host-pathogen interaction in terms of genetic and genomic plant defenses versus strategies of infectious BSGfV EPRVs.
PMCID: PMC2447048  PMID: 18417582
15.  Intracellular Hepadnavirus Nucleocapsids Are Selected for Secretion by Envelope Protein-Independent Membrane Binding 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(24):11472-11478.
Hepadnaviruses are DNA viruses but, as pararetroviruses, their morphogenesis initiates with the encapsidation of an RNA pregenome, and these viruses have therefore evolved mechanisms to exclude nucleocapsids that contain incompletely matured genomes from participating in budding and secretion. We provide here evidence that binding of hepadnavirus core particles from the cytosol to their target membranes is a distinct step in morphogenesis, discriminating among different populations of intracellular capsids. Using the duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) and a flotation assay, we found about half of the intracellular capsids to be membrane associated due to an intrinsic membrane-binding affinity. In contrast to free cytosolic capsids, this subpopulation contained largely mature, double-stranded DNA genomes and lacked core protein hyperphosphorylation, both features characteristic for secreted virions. Against expectation, however, the selective membrane attachment observed did not require the presence of the large DHBV envelope protein, which has been considered to be crucial for nucleocapsid-membrane interaction. Furthermore, removal of surface-exposed phosphate residues from nonfloating capsids by itself did not suffice to confer membrane affinity and, finally, hyperphosphorylation was absent from nonenveloped nucleocapsids that were released from DHBV-transfected cells. Collectively, these observations argue for a model in which nucleocapsid maturation, involving the viral genome, capsid structure, and capsid dephosphorylation, leads to the exposure of a membrane-binding signal as a step crucial for selecting the matured nucleocapsid to be incorporated into the capsid-independent budding of virus particles.
PMCID: PMC112426  PMID: 11090143
16.  Novel functional microRNAs from virus-free and infected Vitis vinifera plants under water stress 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:20167.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate the post-transcriptional control of several pathway intermediates, thus playing pivotal roles in plant growth, development and response to biotic and abiotic stresses. In recent years, the grapevine genome release, small(s)-RNAseq and degradome-RNAseq together has allowed the discovery and characterisation of many miRNA species, thus rendering the discovery of additional miRNAs difficult and uncertain. Taking advantage of the miRNA responsiveness to stresses and the availability of virus-free Vitis vinifera plants and those infected only by a latent virus, we have analysed grapevines subjected to drought in greenhouse conditions. The sRNA-seq and other sequence-specific molecular analyses have allowed us to characterise conserved miRNA expression profiles in association with specific eco-physiological parameters. In addition, we here report 12 novel grapevine-specific miRNA candidates and describe their expression profile. We show that latent viral infection can influence the miRNA profiles of V. vinifera in response to drought. Moreover, study of eco-physiological parameters showed that photosynthetic rate, stomatal conductance and hydraulic resistance to water transport were significantly influenced by drought and viral infection. Although no unequivocal cause–effect explanation could be attributed to each miRNA target, their contribution to the drought response is discussed.
PMCID: PMC4735847  PMID: 26833264
17.  RNA-based viral immunity initiated by the Dicer family of host immune receptors 
Immunological reviews  2009;227(1):176-188.
Suppression of viral infection by RNA in a nucleotide sequence homology-dependent manner was first reported in plants in early 1990s. Studies in the past 15 years have established a completely new RNA-based immune system against viruses that is mechanistically Riverside, CA, USA. related to RNA silencing or RNA interference (RNAi). This viral immunity begins with recognition of viral double-stranded or structured RNA by the Dicer nuclease family of host immune receptors. In fungi, plants and invertebrates, the viral RNA trigger is processed into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to direct specific silencing of the homologous viral genomic and/or messenger RNAs by an RNaseH-like Argonaute protein. Deep sequencing of virus-derived siRNAs indicates that the immunity against viruses with a positive-strand RNA genome is induced by Dicer recognition of dsRNA formed during the initiation of viral progeny (+)RNA synthesis. The RNA-based immune pathway in these organisms overlaps the canonical dsRNA-siRNA pathway of RNAi and may require amplification of viral siRNAs by host RNA-dependent RNA polymerase in plants and nematodes. Production of virus-derived small RNAs is undetectable in mammalian cells infected with RNA viruses. However, infection of mammals with several nucleus-replicating DNA viruses induces production of virus-derived microRNAs capable of silencing host and viral mRNAs as found for viral siRNAs. Remarkably, recent studies indicate that prokaryotes also produce virus-derived small RNAs known as CRISPR RNAs to guide antiviral defense in a manner that has yet to be defined. In this article, we review the recent progress on the identification and mechanism of the key components including viral sensors, viral triggers, effectors, and amplifiers, of the small RNA-directed viral immunity. We also highlight some of the many unresolved questions.
PMCID: PMC2676720  PMID: 19120484
viral; pattern recognition receptors; RNA silencing
18.  The ancient Virus World and evolution of cells 
Biology Direct  2006;1:29.
Recent advances in genomics of viruses and cellular life forms have greatly stimulated interest in the origins and evolution of viruses and, for the first time, offer an opportunity for a data-driven exploration of the deepest roots of viruses. Here we briefly review the current views of virus evolution and propose a new, coherent scenario that appears to be best compatible with comparative-genomic data and is naturally linked to models of cellular evolution that, from independent considerations, seem to be the most parsimonious among the existing ones.
Several genes coding for key proteins involved in viral replication and morphogenesis as well as the major capsid protein of icosahedral virions are shared by many groups of RNA and DNA viruses but are missing in cellular life forms. On the basis of this key observation and the data on extensive genetic exchange between diverse viruses, we propose the concept of the ancient virus world. The virus world is construed as a distinct contingent of viral genes that continuously retained its identity throughout the entire history of life. Under this concept, the principal lineages of viruses and related selfish agents emerged from the primordial pool of primitive genetic elements, the ancestors of both cellular and viral genes. Thus, notwithstanding the numerous gene exchanges and acquisitions attributed to later stages of evolution, most, if not all, modern viruses and other selfish agents are inferred to descend from elements that belonged to the primordial genetic pool. In this pool, RNA viruses would evolve first, followed by retroid elements, and DNA viruses. The Virus World concept is predicated on a model of early evolution whereby emergence of substantial genetic diversity antedates the advent of full-fledged cells, allowing for extensive gene mixing at this early stage of evolution. We outline a scenario of the origin of the main classes of viruses in conjunction with a specific model of precellular evolution under which the primordial gene pool dwelled in a network of inorganic compartments. Somewhat paradoxically, under this scenario, we surmise that selfish genetic elements ancestral to viruses evolved prior to typical cells, to become intracellular parasites once bacteria and archaea arrived at the scene. Selection against excessively aggressive parasites that would kill off the host ensembles of genetic elements would lead to early evolution of temperate virus-like agents and primitive defense mechanisms, possibly, based on the RNA interference principle. The emergence of the eukaryotic cell is construed as the second melting pot of virus evolution from which the major groups of eukaryotic viruses originated as a result of extensive recombination of genes from various bacteriophages, archaeal viruses, plasmids, and the evolving eukaryotic genomes. Again, this vision is predicated on a specific model of the emergence of eukaryotic cell under which archaeo-bacterial symbiosis was the starting point of eukaryogenesis, a scenario that appears to be best compatible with the data.
The existence of several genes that are central to virus replication and structure, are shared by a broad variety of viruses but are missing from cellular genomes (virus hallmark genes) suggests the model of an ancient virus world, a flow of virus-specific genes that went uninterrupted from the precellular stage of life's evolution to this day. This concept is tightly linked to two key conjectures on evolution of cells: existence of a complex, precellular, compartmentalized but extensively mixing and recombining pool of genes, and origin of the eukaryotic cell by archaeo-bacterial fusion. The virus world concept and these models of major transitions in the evolution of cells provide complementary pieces of an emerging coherent picture of life's history.
W. Ford Doolittle, J. Peter Gogarten, and Arcady Mushegian.
PMCID: PMC1594570  PMID: 16984643
19.  Hypothesis for heritable, anti-viral immunity in crustaceans and insects 
Biology Direct  2009;4:32.
It is known that crustaceans and insects can persistently carry one or more viral pathogens at low levels, without signs of disease. They may transmit them to their offspring or to naïve individuals, often with lethal consequences. The underlying molecular mechanisms have not been elucidated, but the process has been called viral accommodation. Since tolerance to one virus does not confer tolerance to another, tolerance is pathogen-specific, so the requirement for a specific pathogen response mechanism (memory) was included in the original viral accommodation concept. Later, it was hypothesized that specific responses were based on the presence of viruses in persistent infections. However, recent developments suggest that specific responses may be based on viral sequences inserted into the host genome.
Presentation of the hypothesis
Non-retroviral fragments of both RNA and DNA viruses have been found in insect and crustacean genomes. In addition, reverse-transcriptase (RT) and integrase (IN) sequences are also common in their genomes. It is hypothesized that shrimp and other arthropods use these RT to recognize "foreign" mRNA of both RNA and DNA viruses and use the integrases (IN) to randomly insert short cDNA sequences into their genomes. By chance, some of these sequences result in production of immunospecific RNA (imRNA) capable of stimulating RNAi that suppresses viral propagation. Individuals with protective inserts would pass these on to the next generation, together with similar protective inserts for other viruses that could be amalgamated rapidly in individual offspring by random assortment of chromosomes. The most successful individuals would be environmentally selected from billions of offspring.
This hypothesis for immunity based on an imRNA generation mechanism fits with the general principle of invertebrate immunity based on a non-host, "pattern recognition" process. If proven correct, understanding the process would allow directed preparation of vaccines for selection of crustacean and insect lines applicable in commercial production species (e.g., shrimp and bees) or in control of insect-borne diseases. Arising from a natural host mechanism, the resulting animals would not be artificially, genetically modified (GMO).
This article was reviewed by Akria Shibuya, Eugene V. Koonin and L. Aravind.
PMCID: PMC2757015  PMID: 19725947
20.  In silico approach to reveal viral populations in grapevine cultivar Tannat using transcriptome data 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:15841.
Viruses are ubiquitous and present in a wide range of settings, from living organisms to various environments. Although viruses are regarded as important pathogens in higher plants, viral populations in specific host plants have not yet been fully examined. This study revealed viral populations in grape berries obtained from a cultivar from a single vineyard using currently available grapevine transcriptomes. Eight viruses and two viroids were identified using 11 grapevine libraries. Virus-associated sequences in each transcriptome ranged from 0.2% (seed) to 8.8% (skin). The amount of viral RNAs and virus copy numbers was quantified, thus revealing the dominant virus or viroid in each individual library. In addition, five viral genomes were successfully assembled de novo using transcriptome data. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that the viruses and viroids might have originated from Europe, along with the host. Single nucleotide variation studies revealed the quasispecies of RNA viruses. Taken together, this study defines complex viral populations in three different grape tissues from a single vineyard.
PMCID: PMC4623741  PMID: 26508692
21.  A deletion polymorphism in the Caenorhabditis elegans RIG-I homolog disables viral RNA dicing and antiviral immunity 
eLife  2013;2:e00994.
RNA interference defends against viral infection in plant and animal cells. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and its natural pathogen, the positive-strand RNA virus Orsay, have recently emerged as a new animal model of host-virus interaction. Using a genome-wide association study in C. elegans wild populations and quantitative trait locus mapping, we identify a 159 base-pair deletion in the conserved drh-1 gene (encoding a RIG-I-like helicase) as a major determinant of viral sensitivity. We show that DRH-1 is required for the initiation of an antiviral RNAi pathway and the generation of virus-derived siRNAs (viRNAs). In mammals, RIG-I-domain containing proteins trigger an interferon-based innate immunity pathway in response to RNA virus infection. Our work in C. elegans demonstrates that the RIG-I domain has an ancient role in viral recognition. We propose that RIG-I acts as modular viral recognition factor that couples viral recognition to different effector pathways including RNAi and interferon responses.
eLife digest
Most organisms—from bacteria to mammals—have at least a rudimentary immune system that can detect and defend against pathogens, particularly viruses. This defense mechanism, which is known as the innate immune system, uses sensor proteins to recognize viral RNA, and then mobilizes other immune components to attack the invaders.
The specific mechanisms used to destroy viruses differ between species. In mammals, a protein called RIG-1 binds to viral RNA and activates a signaling pathway that leads to the production of interferons: immune proteins named after their ability to ‘interfere’ with viral replication. Plants and insects do not use interferons, but instead use a mechanism called RNA interference, in which long double-stranded RNAs are cleaved into shorter fragments.
The nematode worm C. elegans also deploys RNA interference against viruses but, in contrast to insects and plants, worms do not possess a specific set of RNA interference enzymes that participate solely in the antiviral response. They do, however, express a protein called DRH-1 that is related to the RIG-I protein found in mammals.
To investigate whether DRH-1 contributes to innate immunity in C. elegans, Ashe et al. infected 97 strains of C. elegans from around the world with a virus, and showed that some strains were more sensitive to the virus than others, with certain strains showing complete resistance. By comparing a sensitive strain with a resistant one, Ashe et al. revealed that viral sensitivity was caused by a mutation in the gene encoding DRH-1.
Further experiments showed that DRH-1 is required for the first step in RNA interference. Ashe et al. have thus identified a conserved role for RIG-1 in initiating antiviral responses, and propose that the protein couples virus recognition to distinct defense mechanisms in different evolutionary groups.
PMCID: PMC3793227  PMID: 24137537
RNA interference; immunity; virus infection; C. elegans
22.  A highly effective and versatile technology for the isolation of RNAs from grapevines and other woody perennials for use in virus diagnostics 
Virology Journal  2015;12:171.
Isolation of pure RNA from woody perennials, especially fruit crops such as grapevine rich in complex secondary metabolites, has remained very challenging. Lack of effective RNA isolation technology has resulted in difficulties in viral diagnosis and discovery as well as studies on many biological processes of these highly important woody plants. It is imperative to develop and refine methodologies with which large amounts of pure nucleic acids can be readily isolated from woody perennials.
We compared five commonly used RNA isolation kits in isolating total RNA from twelve species of woody perennials. We made modifications to select RNA isolation systems to simplify and improve their efficiency in RNA isolation. The yield and quality of isolated RNAs were assessed via gel electrophoresis and spectrophotometric measurement. We also performed RT-PCR and RT-qPCR to detect several major viruses from grapevines.
Two of the kits were shown to be the best in both the yield and quality of the isolated RNA from all twelve woody species. Using disposable extraction bags for tissue homogenization not only improved the yield without affecting quality, but also made the RNA isolation technology simpler, less costly, and suitable for adoption by many potential users with facility limitations. This system was successfully applied to a wide range of woody plants, including fruit crops, ornamentals and timber trees. Inclusion of polyvinylpyrrolidone in the extraction buffer drastically improved the performance of the system in isolating total RNA from old grapevine leaves collected later in the season. This modification made our system highly effective in isolating quality RNA from grapevine leaves throughout the entire growing season. We further demonstrated that the resulting nucleic acid preparations are suitable for detection of several major grapevine viruses with RNA or DNA genomes using PCR, RT-PCR and qPCR as well as for assays on plant microRNAs.
This improved RNA isolation system would have wide applications in viral diagnostics and discovery, studies on gene expression and regulation, transcriptomics, and small RNA biology in grapevines. We believe this system will also be useful in diverse applications pertaining to research on many other woody perennials and recalcitrant plant species.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12985-015-0376-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4615883  PMID: 26482551
RNA isolation; Woody plants; Grapevines; Polyvinylpyrrolidone; Viral diagnosis; RT-PCR; RT-qPCR; Small RNA and microRNA
23.  Virus-Derived Gene Expression and RNA Interference Vector for Grapevine 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(11):6002-6009.
The improvement of the agricultural and wine-making qualities of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera) is hampered by adherence to traditional varieties, the recalcitrance of this plant to genetic modifications, and public resistance to genetically modified organism (GMO) technologies. To address these challenges, we developed an RNA virus-based vector for the introduction of desired traits into grapevine without heritable modifications to the genome. This vector expresses recombinant proteins in the phloem tissue that is involved in sugar transport throughout the plant, from leaves to roots to berries. Furthermore, the vector provides a powerful RNA interference (RNAi) capability of regulating the expression of endogenous genes via virus-induced gene-silencing (VIGS) technology. Additional advantages of this vector include superb genetic capacity and stability, as well as the swiftness of technology implementation. The most significant applications of the viral vector include functional genomics of the grapevine and disease control via RNAi-enabled vaccination against pathogens or invertebrate pests.
PMCID: PMC3372183  PMID: 22438553
24.  Deep Sequencing of Virus-Derived Small Interfering RNAs and RNA from Viral Particles Shows Highly Similar Mutational Landscapes of a Plant Virus Population 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(9):4760-4769.
RNA viruses exist within a host as a population of mutant sequences, often referred to as quasispecies. Within a host, sequences of RNA viruses constitute several distinct but interconnected pools, such as RNA packed in viral particles, double-stranded RNA, and virus-derived small interfering RNAs. We aimed to test if the same representation of within-host viral population structure could be obtained by sequencing different viral sequence pools. Using ultradeep Illumina sequencing, the diversity of two coexisting Potato virus Y sequence pools present within a plant was investigated: RNA isolated from viral particles and virus-derived small interfering RNAs (the derivatives of a plant RNA silencing mechanism). The mutational landscape of the within-host virus population was highly similar between both pools, with no notable hotspots across the viral genome. Notably, all of the single-nucleotide polymorphisms with a frequency of higher than 1.6% were found in both pools. Some unique single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with very low frequencies were found in each of the pools, with more of them occurring in the small RNA (sRNA) pool, possibly arising through genetic drift in localized virus populations within a plant and the errors introduced during the amplification of silencing signal. Sequencing of the viral particle pool enhanced the efficiency of consensus viral genome sequence reconstruction. Nonhomologous recombinations were commonly detected in the viral particle pool, with a hot spot in the 3′ untranslated and coat protein regions of the genome. We stress that they present an important but often overlooked aspect of virus population diversity.
IMPORTANCE This study is the most comprehensive whole-genome characterization of a within-plant virus population to date and the first study comparing diversity of different pools of viral sequences within a host. We show that both virus-derived small RNAs and RNA from viral particles could be used for diversity assessment of within-plant virus population, since they show a highly congruent portrayal of the virus mutational landscape within a plant. The study is an important baseline for future studies of virus population dynamics, for example, during the adaptation to a new host. The comparison of the two virus sequence enrichment techniques, sequencing of virus-derived small interfering RNAs and RNA from purified viral particles, shows the strength of the latter for the detection of recombinant viral genomes and reconstruction of complete consensus viral genome sequence.
PMCID: PMC4403455  PMID: 25673712
25.  A Stretch of 11 Amino Acids in the βB-βC Loop of the Coat Protein of Grapevine Fanleaf Virus Is Essential for Transmission by the Nematode Xiphinema index▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(16):7924-7933.
Grapevine fanleaf virus (GFLV) and Arabis mosaic virus (ArMV) from the genus Nepovirus, family Secoviridae, cause a severe degeneration of grapevines. GFLV and ArMV have a bipartite RNA genome and are transmitted specifically by the ectoparasitic nematodes Xiphinema index and Xiphinema diversicaudatum, respectively. The transmission specificity of both viruses maps to their respective RNA2-encoded coat protein (CP). To further delineate the GFLV CP determinants of transmission specificity, three-dimensional (3D) homology structure models of virions and CP subunits were constructed based on the crystal structure of Tobacco ringspot virus, the type member of the genus Nepovirus. The 3D models were examined to predict amino acids that are exposed at the external virion surface, highly conserved among GFLV isolates but divergent between GFLV and ArMV. Five short amino acid stretches that matched these topographical and sequence conservation criteria were selected and substituted in single and multiple combinations by their ArMV counterparts in a GFLV RNA2 cDNA clone. Among the 21 chimeric RNA2 molecules engineered, transcripts of only three of them induced systemic plant infection in the presence of GFLV RNA1. Nematode transmission assays of the three viable recombinant viruses showed that swapping a stretch of (i) 11 residues in the βB-βC loop near the icosahedral 3-fold axis abolished transmission by X. index but was insufficient to restore transmission by X. diversicaudatum and (ii) 7 residues in the βE-αB loop did not interfere with transmission by the two Xiphinema species. This study provides new insights into GFLV CP determinants of nematode transmission.
PMCID: PMC2916547  PMID: 20519403

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