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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) directed against poliovirus and other viruses effectively inhibit viral replication. Although RNA interference (RNAi) may provide the basis for specific antiviral therapies, the limitations of RNAi antiviral strategies are ill defined. Here, we show that poliovirus readily escapes highly effective siRNAs through unique point mutations within the targeted regions. Competitive analysis of the escape mutants provides insights into the basis of siRNA recognition. The RNAi machinery can tolerate mismatches but is exquisitely sensitive to mutations within the central region and the 3′ end of the target sequence. Indeed, specific mutations in the target sequence resulting in G:U mismatches are sufficient for the virus to escape siRNA inhibition. However, using a pool of siRNAs to simultaneously target multiple sites in the viral genome prevents the emergence of resistant viruses. Our study uncovers the elegant precision of target recognition by the RNAi machinery and provides the basis for the development of effective RNAi-based therapies that prevent viral escape.
Gene silencing mediated by RNA interference (RNAi) was first discovered in Caenorhabditis elegans, and was subsequently recognized in various other organisms. In mammalian cells, RNAi can be induced by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). In earlier studies, our group developed a vector-based system for expression of siRNA under control of a polymerase III promoter, the U6 promoter, which can induce RNAi in living cells. We here describe a system for controlling the U6 promoter-driven expression of siRNA using the Cre–loxP recombination system. We constructed a ‘Cre-On’ siRNA expression vector which could be switched on upon excision catalyzed by Cre recombinase, which was delivered to cells directly from the medium as a fusion protein. An examination of the effectiveness of RNAi against a reporter gene revealed that addition of TAT-NLS-Cre (where NLS is a nuclear localization signal and TAT is a peptide of 11 amino acids derived from HIV) to the medium resulted in plasmid recombination, generation of siRNA and suppression of reporter activity. This system should allow us to induce RNAi in a spatially, temporally, cell type-specifically or tissue-specifically controlled manner and potentiate the improved application of RNAi in both an experimental and a therapeutic context.
Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) induces gene-specific silencing in organisms from fungi to animals, a phenomenon known as RNA interference (RNAi). RNAi represents an evolutionarily conserved system to protect against aberrant expression of genes and a powerful tool for gene manipulation. Despite reports that RNAi can be induced in vertebrates, severe sequence-non-specific effects of long dsRNA have been documented in various systems. It has recently been shown in cultured mammalian cells that small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) of 21–23 nt can mediate RNAi but bypass the non-specific response induced by longer dsRNAs. However, the effectiveness of siRNAs has not been demonstrated in living vertebrates. In addition, the mechanism of siRNA suppression of gene expression in vertebrate cells remains to be elucidated. Here we show that synthetic 21 nt siRNAs can specifically inhibit the expression of exogenously introduced as well as endogenous genes in the embryos of Xenopus laevis. siRNAs significantly reduced the steady-state amount of both the mRNA and protein of the cognate gene target. Moreover, co-injection of siRNA with the target RNA transcript specifically suppressed the activity of the latter. Taken together, our findings establish siRNA-mediated post-transcriptional suppression of gene expression in Xenopus embryos.
Methods that allow the specific silencing of a desired gene are invaluable tools for research. One of these is based on RNA interference (RNAi), a process by which double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) specifically suppresses the expression of a target mRNA. Recently, it has been reported that RNAi also works in mammalian cells if small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are used to avoid activation of the interferon system by long dsRNA. Thus, RNAi could become a major tool for reverse genetics in mammalian systems. However, the high cost and the limited availability of the short synthetic RNAs and the lack of certainty that a designed siRNA will work present major drawbacks of the siRNA technology. Here we present an alternative method to obtain cheap and large amounts of siRNAs using T7 RNA polymerase. With multiple transfection procedures, including calcium phosphate co-precipitation, we demonstrate silencing of both exogenous and endogenous genes.
RNA silencing or interference (RNAi) is a gene regulation mechanism in eukaryotes that controls cell differentiation and developmental processes via expression of microRNAs. RNAi also serves as an innate antiviral defence response in plants, nematodes, and insects. This antiviral response is triggered by virus-specific double-stranded RNA molecules (dsRNAs) that are produced during infection. To overcome antiviral RNAi responses, many plant and insect viruses encode RNA silencing suppressors (RSSs) that enable them to replicate at higher titers. Recently, several human viruses were shown to encode RSSs, suggesting that RNAi also serves as an innate defence response in mammals. Here, we demonstrate that the Ebola virus VP35 protein is a suppressor of RNAi in mammalian cells and that its RSS activity is functionally equivalent to that of the HIV-1 Tat protein. We show that VP35 can replace HIV-1 Tat and thereby support the replication of a Tat-minus HIV-1 variant. The VP35 dsRNA-binding domain is required for this RSS activity. Vaccinia virus E3L protein and influenza A virus NS1 protein are also capable of replacing the HIV-1 Tat RSS function. These findings support the hypothesis that RNAi is part of the innate antiviral response in mammalian cells. Moreover, the results indicate that RSSs play a critical role in mammalian virus replication.
Cells have evolved mechanisms to protect themselves from virus infection. A well-known antiviral mechanism in mammals is the interferon (IFN) response of the innate immune system. In plants, insects, and worms, RNA silencing or RNA interference (RNAi) is a strong antiviral defence mechanism. It is still debated whether RNAi is also used as an antiviral mechanism in mammals. Many mammalian viruses encode essential factors that suppress the innate antiviral responses of the host. Such innate immunity suppressor proteins, or IFN antagonists, have recently been reported to also suppress RNAi in mammalian cells. We now demonstrate that the Ebola virus VP35 protein, a known IFN antagonist, suppresses RNAi in human cells. In addition, VP35 restores the production of an HIV-1 variant with a defective RNAi suppressor Tat protein. These results indicate that RNAi is part of the innate antiviral defence response in mammals and that viruses need to counteract this response in order to replicate. Whereas RNAi and INF act in concert to prevent the infection of mammalian cells, the invading viruses encode a protein that counteracts both defence mechanisms.
RNA silencing, or RNA interference (RNAi) in metazoans mediates development, reduces viral infection and limits transposon mobility. RNA silencing involves 21–30 nucleotide RNAs classified into microRNA (miRNA), exogenous and endogenous small interfering RNAs (siRNA), and Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA). Knock-out, silencing and mutagenesis of genes in the exogenous siRNA (exo-siRNA) regulatory network demonstrate the importance of this RNAi pathway in antiviral immunity in Drosophila and mosquitoes. In Drosophila, genes encoding components for processing exo-siRNAs are among the fastest evolving 3% of all genes, suggesting that infection with pathogenic RNA viruses may drive diversifying selection in their host. In contrast, paralogous miRNA pathway genes do not evolve more rapidly than the genome average. Silencing of exo-siRNA pathway genes in mosquitoes orally infected with arboviruses leads to increased viral replication, but little is known about the comparative patterns of molecular evolution among the exo-siRNA and miRNA pathways genes in mosquitoes. We generated nearly complete sequences of all exons of major miRNA and siRNA pathway genes dicer-1 and dicer-2, argonaute-1 and argonaute-2, and r3d1 and r2d2 in 104 Aedes aegypti mosquitoes collected from six distinct geographic populations and analyzed their genetic diversity. The ratio of replacement to silent amino acid substitutions was 1.4 fold higher in dicer-2 than in dicer-1, 27.4 fold higher in argonaute-2 than in argonaute-1 and similar in r2d2 and r3d1. Positive selection was supported in 32% of non-synonymous sites in dicer-1, in 47% of sites in dicer-2, in 30% of sites in argonaute-1, in all sites in argonaute-2, in 22% of sites in r3d1 and in 55% of sites in r2d2. Unlike Drosophila, in Ae. aegypti, both exo-siRNA and miRNA pathway genes appear to be undergoing rapid, positive, diversifying selection. Furthermore, refractoriness of mosquitoes to infection with dengue virus was significantly positively correlated for nucleotide diversity indices in dicer-2.