Pathogenic viruses have developed a molecular defense arsenal for their survival by counteracting the host anti-viral system known as RNA interference (RNAi). Cellular RNAi, in addition to regulating gene expression through microRNAs, also serves as a barrier against invasive foreign nucleic acids. RNAi is conserved across the biological species, including plants, animals and invertebrates. Viruses in turn, have evolved mechanisms that can counteract this anti-viral defense of the host. Recent studies of mammalian viruses exhibiting RNA silencing suppressor (RSS) activity have further advanced our understanding of RNAi in terms of host-virus interactions. Viral proteins and non-coding viral RNAs can inhibit the RNAi (miRNA/siRNA) pathway through different mechanisms. Mammalian viruses having dsRNA-binding regions and GW/WG motifs appear to have a high chance of conferring RSS activity. Although, RSSs of plant and invertebrate viruses have been well characterized, mammalian viral RSSs still need in-depth investigations to present the concrete evidences supporting their RNAi ablation characteristics. The information presented in this review together with any perspective research should help to predict and identify the RSS activity-endowed new viral proteins that could be the potential targets for designing novel anti-viral therapeutics.
miRNA; ds-RNA binding protein; Dicer; Argonaute; RISC; GW/WG motif; HIV-1 Tat; Influenza A virus NS1
Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) direct RNA interference (RNAi) in eukaryotes. In flies, somatic cells produce siRNAs from exogenous double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) as a defense against viral infection. We identified endogenous siRNAs (endo-siRNAs), 21 nucleotides in length, that correspond to transposons and heterochromatic sequences in the somatic cells of Drosophila melanogaster. We also detected endo-siRNAs complementary to messenger RNAs (mRNAs); these siRNAs disproportionately mapped to the complementary regions of overlapping mRNAs predicted to form double-stranded RNA in vivo. Normal accumulation of somatic endo-siRNAs requires the siRNA-generating ribonuclease Dicer-2 and the RNAi effector protein Argonaute2 (Ago2). We propose that endo-siRNAs generated by the fly RNAi pathway silence selfish genetic elements in the soma, much as Piwi-interacting RNAs do in the germ line.
RNA silencing or RNA interference (RNAi) refers to the small RNA-guided gene silencing mechanism conserved in a wide range of eukaryotic organisms from plants to mammals. As part of this special issue on the biology, mechanisms and applications of RNAi, here we review the recent advances on defining a role of RNAi in the responses of invertebrate and vertebrate animals to virus infection. Approximately 40 miRNAs and 10 RNAi suppressors encoded by diverse mammalian viruses have been identified. Assays used for the identification of viral suppressors and possible biological functions of both viral miRNAs and suppressors are discussed. We propose that herpesviral miRNAs may act as specificity factors to initiate heterochromatin assembly of the latent viral DNA genome in the nucleus.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a highly specific gene-silencing phenomenon triggered by dsRNA1. This silencing mechanism uses two major classes of RNA regulators: microRNAs, which are produced from non-protein coding genes and short interfering RNAs (siRNAs). Plants use RNAi to control transposons and to exert tight control over developmental processes such as flower organ formation and leaf development2,3,4. Plants also use RNAi to defend themselves against infection by viruses. Consequently, many viruses have evolved suppressors of gene silencing to allow their successful colonization of their host5.
Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) is a method that takes advantage of the plant RNAi-mediated antiviral defense mechanism. In plants infected with unmodified viruses the mechanism is specifically targeted against the viral genome. However, with virus vectors carrying sequences derived from host genes, the process can be additionally targeted against the corresponding host mRNAs. VIGS has been adapted for high-throughput functional genomics in plants by using the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens to deliver, via its Ti plasmid, a recombinant virus carrying the entire or part of the gene sequence targeted for silencing. Systemic virus spread and the endogenous plant RNAi machinery take care of the rest. dsRNAs corresponding to the target gene are produced and then cleaved by the ribonuclease Dicer into siRNAs of 21 to 24 nucleotides in length. These siRNAs ultimately guide the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) to degrade the target transcript2.
Different vectors have been employed in VIGS and one of the most frequently used is based on tobacco rattle virus (TRV). TRV is a bipartite virus and, as such, two different A. tumefaciens strains are used for VIGS. One carries pTRV1, which encodes the replication and movement viral functions while the other, pTRV2, harbors the coat protein and the sequence used for VIGS6,7. Inoculation of Nicotiana benthamiana and tomato seedlings with a mixture of both strains results in gene silencing. Silencing of the endogenous phytoene desaturase (PDS) gene, which causes photobleaching, is used as a control for VIGS efficiency. It should be noted, however, that silencing in tomato is usually less efficient than in N. benthamiana. RNA transcript abundance of the gene of interest should always be measured to ensure that the target gene has efficiently been down-regulated. Nevertheless, heterologous gene sequences from N. benthamiana can be used to silence their respective orthologs in tomato and vice versa8.
In fungi, plants, and invertebrates, antiviral RNA interference (RNAi) directed by virus-derived small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) represents a major antiviral defense that the invading viruses have to overcome in order to establish infection. As a counterdefense mechanism, viruses of these hosts produce diverse classes of proteins capable of suppressing the biogenesis and/or function of viral siRNAs. This RNA-directed viral immunity (RDVI) in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is known to exhibit some unique features. Currently, little is known about viral suppression of RNAi in C. elegans. Here, we show that ectopic expression of the B2 protein encoded by Flock House virus (FHV) suppresses RNAi induced by either long double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) or an FHV-based replicon and facilitates the natural infection of C. elegans by Orsay virus but is not active against RNA silencing mediated by microRNAs. We report the development of an assay for the identification of viral suppressor of RNAi (VSR) in C. elegans based on the suppression of a viral replicon-triggered RDVI by ectopic expression of candidate proteins. No VSR activity was detected for either of the two Orsay viral proteins proposed previously as VSRs. We detected, among the known heterologous VSRs, VSR activity for B2 of Nodamura virus but not for 2b of tomato aspermy virus, p29 of fungus-infecting hypovirus, or p19 of tomato bushy stunt virus. We further show that, unlike that in plants and insects, FHV B2 suppresses worm RDVI mainly by interfering with the function of virus-derived primary siRNAs.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a conserved gene regulatory mechanism employed by most eukaryotes as a key component of their innate immune response against viruses and retrotransposons. During viral infection, the RNase III-type endonuclease Dicer cleaves viral double-stranded RNA into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), 21–24 nucleotides in length, and helps load them into the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) to guide cleavage of complementary viral RNA. As a countermeasure, many viruses have evolved viral RNA silencing suppressor (RSS) proteins that tightly, and presumably quantitatively, bind siRNAs to thwart RNAi-mediated degradation. Viral RSS proteins also act across kingdoms as potential immunosuppressors in gene therapeutic applications. Here we report fluorescence quenching and electrophoretic mobility shift assays that probe siRNA binding by the dimeric RSS p19 from Carnation Italian Ringspot Virus (CIRV), as well as by human Dicer and RISC assembly complexes. We find that the siRNA:p19 interaction is readily reversible, characterized by rapid binding ((1.69 ± 0.07)×108 M−1s−1) and marked dissociation (koff = 0.062 ± 0.002 s−1). We also observe that p19 efficiently competes with recombinant Dicer and inhibits formation of RISC-related assembly complexes found in human cell extract. Computational modeling based on these results provides evidence for the transient formation of a ternary complex between siRNA, human Dicer, and p19. An expanded model of RNA silencing indicates that multiple-turnover by reversible binding of siRNAs potentiates the efficiency of the suppressor protein. Our predictive model is expected to be applicable to the dosing of p19 as a silencing suppressor in viral gene therapy.
fluorescence quenching; p19; RNA interference; systems biology modeling; viral silencing suppressor protein
Small double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) of approximately 21-nucleotides in size, referred to as small interfering RNA (siRNA) duplexes, can induce sequence-specific posttranscriptional gene silencing, or RNA interference (RNAi). Since chemically synthesized siRNA duplexes were found to induce RNAi in mammalian cells, RNAi has become a powerful reverse genetic tool for suppressing the expression of a gene of interest in mammals, including human, and its application has been expanding to various fields. Recent studies further suggest that synthetic siRNA duplexes have the potential for specifically inhibiting the expression of an allele of interest without suppressing the expression of other alleles, i.e., siRNA duplexes likely confer allele-specific silencing. Such gene silencing by RNAi is an advanced technique with very promising applications. In this review, I would like to discuss the potential utility of allele-specific silencing by RNAi as a therapeutic method for dominantly inherited diseases, and describe possible improvements in siRNA duplexes for enhancing their efficacy.
RNAi; allele-specific silencing; siRNA selection; dominantly inherited disease; nucleotide variation; allele discrimination; siRNA modification; forked siRNA
RNA interference (RNAi) is an important antiviral defense response in plants and invertebrates; however, evidences for its contribution to mammalian antiviral defense are few. In the present study, we demonstrate the anti-dengue virus role of RNAi in mammalian cells. Dengue virus infection of Huh 7 cells decreased the mRNA levels of host RNAi factors, namely, Dicer, Drosha, Ago1, and Ago2, and in corollary, silencing of these genes in virus-infected cells enhanced dengue virus replication. In addition, we observed downregulation of many known human microRNAs (miRNAs) in response to viral infection. Using reversion-of-silencing assays, we further showed that NS4B of all four dengue virus serotypes is a potent RNAi suppressor. We generated a series of deletion mutants and demonstrated that NS4B mediates RNAi suppression via its middle and C-terminal domains, namely, transmembrane domain 3 (TMD3) and TMD5. Importantly, the NS4B N-terminal region, including the signal sequence 2K, which has been implicated in interferon (IFN)-antagonistic properties, was not involved in mediating RNAi suppressor activity. Site-directed mutagenesis of conserved residues revealed that a Phe-to-Ala (F112A) mutation in the TMD3 region resulted in a significant reduction of the RNAi suppression activity. The green fluorescent protein (GFP)-small interfering RNA (siRNA) biogenesis of the GFP-silenced line was considerably reduced by wild-type NS4B, while the F112A mutant abrogated this reduction. These results were further confirmed by in vitro dicer assays. Together, our results suggest the involvement of miRNA/RNAi pathways in dengue virus establishment and that dengue virus NS4B protein plays an important role in the modulation of the host RNAi/miRNA pathway to favor dengue virus replication.
RNA interference (RNAi) targeted towards viral mRNAs is widely used to block virus replication in mammalian cells. The specific antiviral RNAi response can be induced via transfection of synthetic small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or via intracellular expression of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs). For HIV-1, both approaches resulted in profound inhibition of virus replication. However, the therapeutic use of a single siRNA/shRNA appears limited due to the rapid emergence of RNAi-resistant escape viruses. These variants contain deletions or point mutations within the target sequence that abolish the antiviral effect. To avoid escape from RNAi, the virus should be simultaneously targeted with multiple shRNAs. Alternatively, long hairpin RNAs can be used from which multiple effective siRNAs may be produced. In this study, we constructed extended shRNAs (e-shRNAs) that encode two effective siRNAs against conserved HIV-1 sequences. Activity assays and RNA processing analyses indicate that the positioning of the two siRNAs within the hairpin stem is critical for the generation of two functional siRNAs. E-shRNAs that are efficiently processed into two effective siRNAs showed better inhibition of virus production than the poorly processed e-shRNAs, without inducing the interferon response. These results provide building principles for the design of multi-siRNA hairpin constructs.
The discovery of RNA interference (RNAi) in C. elegans and in plants has revolutionized current approaches to biology and medicine. RNAi silences genes in a sequence-specific manner through the actions of small pieces of double-stranded RNAs (siRNAs and miRNAs). RNAi has been found as a widespread natural phenomenon in eukaryotic cells and is also being used as a powerful experimental tool to explore gene function. Most importantly, it has many potential therapeutic applications. Viral gene-specific siRNAs are theoretically very promising antiviral inhibitors and have been examined in a broad range of medically important viruses. However, many RNA viruses escape RNAi-mediated suppression by counteracting the RNAi machinery through mutation of the targeted region, by encoding viral suppressors, or both. DNA viruses also counteract the RNAi machinery, preferentially using viral suppressors. Cellular factors may also contribute to RNAi resistance; ADAR1 was the first cellular factor found to be responsible for editing-mediated RNAi resistance. Because siRNAs can be used as potent small-molecule inhibitors of any cellular gene, the best way for a cell to maintain expression of essential genes for its long-term survival is to develop a program to resist the detrimental effects of RNAi.
RNA interference; siRNA; miRNA; gene expression; viral inhibitors; gene therapies
In plants and insects, RNA interference (RNAi) is the main responder against viruses and shapes the basis of antiviral immunity. Viruses counter this defense by expressing viral suppressors of RNAi (VSRs). While VSRs in Drosophila melanogaster were shown to inhibit RNAi through different modes of action, whether they act on other silencing pathways remained unexplored.
Here we show that expression of various plant and insect VSRs in transgenic flies does not perturb the Drosophila microRNA (miRNA) pathway; but in contrast, inhibits antiviral RNAi and the RNA silencing response triggered by inverted repeat transcripts, and injection of dsRNA or siRNA. Strikingly, these VSRs also suppressed transposon silencing by endogenous siRNAs (endo-siRNAs).
Our findings identify VSRs as tools to unravel small RNA pathways in insects and suggest a cosuppression of antiviral RNAi and endo-siRNA silencing by viruses during fly infections.
Dicer ribonucleases of plants and invertebrate animals including Caenorhabditis elegans recognize and process a viral RNA trigger into virus-derived small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to guide specific viral immunity by Argonaute-dependent RNA interference (RNAi). C. elegans also encodes three Dicer-related helicase (drh) genes closely related to the RIG-I-like RNA helicase receptors which initiate broad-spectrum innate immunity against RNA viruses in mammals. Here we developed a transgenic C. elegans strain that expressed intense green fluorescence from a chromosomally integrated flock house virus replicon only after knockdown or knockout of a gene required for antiviral RNAi. Use of the reporter nematode strain in a feeding RNAi screen identified drh-1 as an essential component of the antiviral RNAi pathway. However, RNAi induced by either exogenous dsRNA or the viral replicon was enhanced in drh-2 mutant nematodes, whereas exogenous RNAi was essentially unaltered in drh-1 mutant nematodes, indicating that exogenous and antiviral RNAi pathways are genetically distinct. Genetic epistatic analysis shows that drh-1 acts downstream of virus sensing and viral siRNA biogenesis to mediate specific antiviral RNAi. Notably, we found that two members of the substantially expanded subfamily of Argonautes specific to C. elegans control parallel antiviral RNAi pathways. These findings demonstrate both conserved and unique strategies of C. elegans in antiviral defense.
The genome of Caenorhabditis elegans encodes three Dicer-related helicases (DRHs) highly homologous to the DExD/H box helicase domain found in two distinct families of virus sensors, Dicer ribonucleases and RIG-I-like helicases (RLRs). Dicer initiates the specific, RNAi-mediated viral immunity in plants, fungi and invertebrates by producing virus-derived small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). By contrast, mammalian RLRs trigger interferon production and broad-spectrum viral immunity, although one of the three RLRs may act as both a negative and positive regulator of viral immunity. In this study we developed a transgenic C. elegans strain for high-throughput genetic screens and identified 35 genes including drh-1 that are required for RNAi-mediated viral immunity. Genetic epistatic analyses demonstrate that drh-1 mediates RNAi immunity downstream of the production of viral siRNAs. Notably, we found that drh-2 functions as a negative regulator of the viral immunity. Thus, both nematode DRHs and mammalian RLRs participate in antiviral immune responses. Unlike mammalian RLRs, however, nematode DRH-1 employs an RNAi effector mechanism and is unlikely to be involved in direct virus sensing.
RNA interference (RNAi) is an evolutionary conserved gene silencing mechanism in which small interfering RNA (siRNA) mediates the sequence specific degradation of mRNA. The recent discovery that exogenously delivered siRNA can trigger RNAi in mammalian cells raises the possibility to use this technology as a therapeutic tool against pathogenic viruses. Indeed, it has been shown that siRNAs can be used effectively to inhibit virus replication. The focus of this review is on RNA interference strategies against HIV-1 and how this new technology may be developed into a new successful therapy. One of the hallmarks of RNAi, its sequence specificity, also presents a way out for the virus, as single nucleotide substitutions in the target region can abolish the suppression. Strategies to prevent the emergence of resistant viruses have been suggested and involve the targeting of conserved sequences and the simultaneous use of multiple siRNAs, similar to current highly active antiretroviral therapy. We present an additional strategy aimed at preventing viral escape by using a second generation of siRNAs that recognize the mutated target sites.
HIV-1; RNA interference; gene therapy; siRNA; shRNA; combinatorial therapy; lentiviral vector
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.
viral; pattern recognition receptors; RNA silencing
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and other plus-strand RNA viruses typically require the generation of a small number of negative genomes (20–100× lower than the positive genomes) for replication, making the less-abundant antigenome an attractive target for RNA interference(RNAi)-based therapy. Because of the complementarity of duplex short hairpin RNA/small interfering RNA (shRNA/siRNAs) with both genomic and anti-genomic viral RNA strands, and the potential of both shRNA strands to become part of the targeting complexes, preclinical RNAi studies cannot distinguish which viral strand is actually targeted in infected cells. Here, we addressed the question whether the negative HCV genome was bioaccessible to RNAi. We first screened for the most active shRNA molecules against the most conserved regions in the HCV genome, which were then used to generate asymmetric anti-HCV shRNAs that produce biologically active RNAi specifically directed against the genomic or antigenomic HCV sequences. Using this simple but powerful and effective method to screen for shRNA strand selectivity, we demonstrate that the antigenomic strand of HCV is not a viable RNAi target during HCV replication. These findings provide new insights into HCV biology and have important implications for the design of more effective and safer antiviral RNAi strategies seeking to target HCV and other viruses with similar replicative strategies.
Mosquitoes rely on RNA interference (RNAi) as their primary defense against viral infections. To this end, the combination of RNAi and invertebrate cell culture systems has become an invaluable tool in studying virus-vector interactions. Nevertheless, a recent study failed to detect an active RNAi response to West Nile virus (WNV) infection in C6/36 (Aedes albopictus) cells, a mosquito cell line frequently used to study arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses). Therefore, we sought to determine if WNV actively evades the host's RNAi response or if C6/36 cells have a dysfunctional RNAi pathway. C6/36 and Drosophila melanogaster S2 cells were infected with WNV (Flaviviridae), Sindbis virus (SINV, Togaviridae) and La Crosse virus (LACV, Bunyaviridae) and total RNA recovered from cell lysates. Small RNA (sRNA) libraries were constructed and subjected to high-throughput sequencing. In S2 cells, virus-derived small interfering RNAs (viRNAs) from all three viruses were predominantly 21 nt in length, a hallmark of the RNAi pathway. However, in C6/36 cells, viRNAs were primarily 17 nt in length from WNV infected cells and 26–27 nt in length in SINV and LACV infected cells. Furthermore, the origin (positive or negative viral strand) and distribution (position along viral genome) of S2 cell generated viRNA populations was consistent with previously published studies, but the profile of sRNAs isolated from C6/36 cells was altered. In total, these results suggest that C6/36 cells lack a functional antiviral RNAi response. These findings are analogous to the type-I interferon deficiency described in Vero (African green monkey kidney) cells and suggest that C6/36 cells may fail to accurately model mosquito-arbovirus interactions at the molecular level.
Cell culture systems are invaluable tools for studying virus-host interactions. These systems are typically easy to maintain and manipulate; however, they can fail to accurately mimic the host environment encountered by viruses. Therefore, defining the limitations of each system is critical to properly interpreting the results. C6/36 Aedes albopictus cells are commonly used to study arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses), such as West Nile virus (WNV). Recent evidence suggests that the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway, a critical aspect of the cellular innate antiviral immune response in invertebrates, may not actively target WNV in C6/36 cells. However, it is unknown whether this observation is limited to WNV. Therefore, we examined small RNA populations from C6/36 and Drosophila melanogastor S2 cells infected with WNV, Sindbis virus and La Crosse virus by high-throughput sequencing. We demonstrate that the RNAi pathway actively targets each of the three viruses in S2 cells, but does not in C6/36 cells. These findings suggest that C6/36 cells may fail to accurately model mosquito-arbovirus interactions.
Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and genome-encoded microRNAs (miRNAs) silence genes via complementary interactions with mRNAs. With thousands of miRNA genes identified and genome sequences of diverse eukaryotes available for comparison, the opportunity emerges for insights into origin and evolution of RNA interference (RNAi). The miRNA repertoires of plants and animals appear to have evolved independently. However, conservation of the key proteins involved in RNAi suggests that the last common ancestor of modern eukaryotes possessed siRNA-based mechanisms. Prokaryotes have a RNAi-like defense system that is functionally analogous but not homologous to eukaryotic RNAi. The protein machinery of eukaryotic RNAi seems to have been pieced together from ancestral proteins of archaeal, bacterial and phage origins that are involved in DNA repair and RNA-processing pathways.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a process of post-transcriptional gene silencing initiated by double-stranded RNAs, including short interfering RNA (siRNA). Silencing is sequence-specific and RNAi has rapidly become central to the study of gene function. RNAi also carries promise for selective silencing of viral and endogenous genes causal for disease. To detect the very low levels of siRNA effective for RNAi we modified the 3′ end of the sense strand of siRNA with a nuclease-resistant DNA hairpin. We show that the modified siRNA-DNA construct (termed ‘crook’ siRNA) functions as a primer for the PCR and describe a novel, yet simple PCR protocol for its quantification (amolar levels/cell). When transfected into mammalian cells, crook siRNA induces selective mRNA knock-down equivalent to its unmodified siRNA counterpart. This new bifunctional siRNA construct will enable future in vivo studies on the uptake, distribution and pharmacokinetics of siRNA, and is particularly important for the development of siRNA-based therapeutics. More generally, PCR-based detection of siRNA carries wide-ranging applications for RNAi reverse genetics.
Cellular RNA interference (RNAi) provides a natural response against viral infection, but some viruses have evolved mechanisms to antagonize this form of antiviral immunity. To determine whether Ebolavirus (EBOV) counters RNAi by encoding suppressors of RNA silencing (SRSs), we screened all EBOV proteins using an RNAi assay initiated by exogenously delivered small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) against either an EBOV or a reporter gene. In addition to viral protein 35 (VP35), we found that VP30 and VP40 independently act as SRSs. Here, we present the molecular mechanisms of VP30 and VP35. VP30 interacts with Dicer independently of siRNA and with one Dicer partner, TRBP, only in the presence of siRNA. VP35 directly interacts with Dicer partners TRBP and PACT in an siRNA-independent fashion and in the absence of effects on interferon (IFN). Taken together, our findings elucidate a new mechanism of RNAi suppression that extends beyond the role of SRSs in double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) binding and IFN antagonism. The presence of three suppressors highlights the relevance of host RNAi-dependent antiviral immunity in EBOV infection and illustrates the importance of RNAi in shaping the evolution of RNA viruses.
Small RNAs play a critical role in host-pathogen interaction. Indeed, small RNA-mediated silencing or RNA interference (RNAi) is one of the earliest forms of antiviral immunity. Although it represents the main defense system against viruses in many organisms, the antiviral role of RNAi has not been clearly proven in higher vertebrates. However, it is well established that their response to viral infection relies on the recognition of viral RNAs by host pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) to trigger activation of the interferon pathway. In the present work, we report the existence of a novel small noncoding RNA population produced in mammalian cells upon RNA virus infection. Using Sindbis virus (SINV) as a prototypic arbovirus model, we profiled the small RNA population of infected cells in both human and African green monkey cell lines. Here, we provide evidence for the presence of discrete small RNAs of viral origin that are not associated with the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), that are highly expressed and detected by Northern blot analysis, and that accumulate as 21- to 28-nucleotide (nt) species during infection. We report that the cellular antiviral endoribonuclease RNase L cleaves the viral genome, producing in turn the small RNAs. Surprisingly, we uncovered the presence of a modification on the 3′-end nucleotide of SINV-derived viral small RNAs (SvsRNAs) that might be at the origin of their stability. Altogether, our findings show that stable modified small viral RNAs could represent a novel way to modulate host-virus interaction upon SINV infection.
In a continuous arms race, viruses have to deal with host antiviral responses in order to successfully establish an infection. In mammalian cells, the host defense mechanism relies on the recognition of viral RNAs, resulting in the activation of type I interferons (IFNs). In turn, the expression of many interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) is induced to inhibit viral replication. Here we report that the cytoplasmic, interferon-induced, cellular endoribonuclease RNase L is involved in the accumulation of a novel small RNA population of viral origin. These small RNAs are produced upon SINV infection of mammalian cells and are stabilized by a 3′-end modification. Altogether, our findings indicate that in our system RNA silencing is not active against Sindbis virus (SINV) and might open the way to a better understanding of the antiviral response mediated by a novel class of small RNAs.
Replication of RNA viruses in insect cells triggers an antiviral defense that is mediated by RNA interference (RNAi) which generates viral-derived small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). However, it is not known whether an antiviral RNAi response is also induced in insects by reoviruses, whose double-stranded RNA genome replication is thought to occur within core particles. Deep sequencing of small RNAs showed that when the small brown planthopper (Laodelphax striatellus) was infected by Rice black-streaked dwarf virus (RBSDV) (Reoviridae; Fijivirus), more viral-derived siRNAs accumulated than when the vector insect was infected by Rice stripe virus (RSV), a negative single-stranded RNA virus. RBSDV siRNAs were predominantly 21 and 22 nucleotides long and there were almost equal numbers of positive and negative sense. RBSDV siRNAs were frequently generated from hotspots in the 5′- and 3′-terminal regions of viral genome segments but these hotspots were not associated with any predicted RNA secondary structures. Under laboratory condition, L. striatellus can be infected simultaneously with RBSDV and RSV. Double infection enhanced the accumulation of particular genome segments but not viral coat protein of RBSDV and correlated with an increase in the abundance of siRNAs derived from RBSDV. The results of this study suggest that reovirus replication in its insect vector potentially induces an RNAi-mediated antiviral response.
RNA interference (RNAi) is now widely used for gene silencing in mammalian cells. The mechanism uses the RNA-induced silencing complex, in which Dicer, Ago2, and the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) TAR RNA binding protein (TRBP) are the main components. TRBP is a protein that increases HIV-1 expression and replication by inhibition of the interferon-induced protein kinase PKR and by increasing translation of viral mRNA. After HIV infection, TRBP could restrict the viral RNA through its activity in RNAi or could contribute more to the enhancement of viral replication. To determine which function will be predominant in the virological context, we analyzed whether the inhibition of its expression could enhance or decrease HIV replication. We have generated small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) against TRBP and found that they decrease HIV-1 long terminal repeat (LTR) basal expression 2-fold, and the LTR Tat transactivated level up to 10-fold. In the context of HIV replication, siRNAs against TRBP decrease the expression of viral genes and inhibit viral production up to fivefold. The moderate increase in PKR expression and activation indicates that it contributes partially to viral gene inhibition. The moderate decrease in micro-RNA (miRNA) biogenesis by TRBP siRNAs suggests that in the context of HIV replication, TRBP functions other than RNAi are predominant. In addition, siRNAs against Dicer decrease viral production twofold and impede miRNA biogenesis. These results suggest that, in the context of HIV replication, TRBP contributes mainly to the enhancement of virus production and that Dicer does not mediate HIV restriction by RNAi.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a eukaryotic gene-silencing mechanism that functions in antiviral immunity in diverse organisms. To combat RNAi-mediated immunity, viruses encode viral suppressors of RNA silencing (VSRs) that target RNA and protein components in the RNAi machinery. Although the endonuclease Dicer plays key roles in RNAi immunity, little is known about how VSRs target Dicer. Here, we show that the B2 protein from Wuhan nodavirus (WhNV), the counterpart of Flock House virus (FHV), suppresses Drosophila melanogaster RNAi by directly interacting with Dicer-2 (Dcr-2) and sequestering double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and small interfering RNA (siRNA). Further investigations reveal that WhNV B2 binds to the RNase III and Piwi-Argonaut-Zwille (PAZ) domains of Dcr-2 via its C-terminal region, thereby blocking the activities of Dcr-2 in processing dsRNA and incorporating siRNA into the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). Moreover, we uncover an interrelationship among diverse activities of WhNV B2, showing that RNA binding enhances the B2–Dcr-2 interaction by promoting B2 homodimerization. Taken together, our findings establish a model of suppression of Drosophila RNAi by WhNV B2 targeting both Dcr-2 and RNA and provide evidence that an interrelationship exists among diverse activities of VSRs to antagonize RNAi.
Gene silencing by RNA triggers is an ancient, evolutionarily conserved, and widespread phenomenon. This process, known as RNA interference (RNAi), occurs when double-stranded RNA helices induce cleavage of their complementary mRNAs. Because these RNA molecules can be introduced exogenously as small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), RNAi has become an everyday experimental tool in laboratory research. In addition, the number of RNA-based therapeutics that are currently in clinical trials for a variety of human diseases demonstrate the therapeutic potential of RNAi.
In this Account, we focus on our current understanding of the structure and function of various classes of RNAi triggers and how this knowledge has contributed to our understanding of the biogenesis and catalytic functions of siRNA and microRNA in mammalian cells. Mechanistic studies to understand the structure and function of small RNAs that induce RNAi have illuminated broad functions of the ancient RNAi machinery in animals and plants. In addition, such studies have provided insight to identify endogenous physiological gene silencing RNA triggers that engage functional machineries similar to siRNAs. Several endogenous small RNA species have been identified: small noncoding RNAs (microRNAs), piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), and endogenous siRNAs (endo-siRNAs). microRNAs are the most widespread class of small RNAs in mammalian cells. Despite their importance in biology and medicine, the molecular and cellular mechanisms of microRNA biogenesis and function are not fully understood. We provide an overview of the current understanding of how these molecules are synthesized within cells and how they act on gene targets. Interesting questions remain both for understanding the effects of modifications and editing on microRNAs and the interactions between microRNAs and other cellular RNAs such as long noncoding RNAs.
RNA interference (RNAi) provides a powerful new means to inhibit viral infection specifically. However, the selection of siRNA-resistant viruses is a major concern in the use of RNAi as antiviral therapeutics. In this study, we conducted a lentiviral vector with a H1-short hairpin RNA (shRNA) expression cassette to deliver small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) into mammalian cells. Using this vector that also expresses enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP) as surrogate marker, stable shRNA-expressing cell lines were successfully established and the inhibition efficiencies of rationally designed siRNAs targeting to conserved regions of influenza A virus genome were assessed. The results showed that a siRNA targeting influenza M2 gene (siM2) potently inhibited viral replication. The siM2 was not only effective for H1N1 virus but also for highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1. In addition to its M2 inhibition, the siM2 also inhibited NP mRNA accumulation and protein expression. A long term inhibition effect of the siM2 was demonstrated and the emergence of siRNA-resistant mutants in influenza quasispecies was not observed. Taken together, our study suggested that M2 gene might be an optimal RNAi target for antiviral therapy. These findings provide useful information for the development of RNAi-based prophylaxis and therapy for human influenza virus infection.