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1.  Replication of Many Human Viruses Is Refractory to Inhibition by Endogenous Cellular MicroRNAs 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(14):8065-8076.
The issue of whether viruses are subject to restriction by endogenous microRNAs (miRNAs) and/or by virus-induced small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) in infected human somatic cells has been controversial. Here, we address this question in two ways. First, using deep sequencing, we demonstrate that infection of human cells by the RNA virus dengue virus (DENV) or West Nile virus (WNV) does not result in the production of any virus-derived siRNAs or viral miRNAs. Second, to more globally assess the potential of small regulatory RNAs to inhibit virus replication, we used gene editing to derive human cell lines that lack a functional Dicer enzyme and that therefore are unable to produce miRNAs or siRNAs. Infection of these cells with a wide range of viruses, including DENV, WNV, yellow fever virus, Sindbis virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, measles virus, influenza A virus, reovirus, vesicular stomatitis virus, human immunodeficiency virus type 1, or herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), failed to reveal any enhancement in the replication of any of these viruses, although HSV-1, which encodes at least eight Dicer-dependent viral miRNAs, did replicate somewhat more slowly in the absence of Dicer. We conclude that most, and perhaps all, human viruses have evolved to be resistant to inhibition by endogenous human miRNAs during productive replication and that dependence on a cellular miRNA, as seen with hepatitis C virus, is rare. How viruses have evolved to avoid inhibition by endogenous cellular miRNAs, which are generally highly conserved during metazoan evolution, remains to be determined.
IMPORTANCE Eukaryotic cells express a wide range of small regulatory RNAs, including miRNAs, that have the potential to inhibit the expression of mRNAs that show sequence complementarity. Indeed, previous work has suggested that endogenous miRNAs have the potential to inhibit viral gene expression and replication. Here, we demonstrate that the replication of a wide range of pathogenic viruses is not enhanced in human cells engineered to be unable to produce miRNAs, indicating that viruses have evolved to be resistant to inhibition by miRNAs. This result is important, as it implies that manipulation of miRNA levels is not likely to prove useful in inhibiting virus replication. It also focuses attention on the question of how viruses have evolved to resist inhibition by miRNAs and whether virus mutants that have lost this resistance might prove useful, for example, in the development of attenuated virus vaccines.
PMCID: PMC4097787  PMID: 24807715
2.  Factors affecting reproducibility between genome-scale siRNA-based screens 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2010;15(7):735-747.
RNA interference-based screening is a powerful new genomic technology which addresses gene function en masse. To evaluate factors influencing hit list composition and reproducibility, we performed two identically designed small interfering RNA (siRNA)-based, whole genome screens for host factors supporting yellow fever virus infection. These screens represent two separate experiments completed five months apart and allow the direct assessment of the reproducibility of a given siRNA technology when performed in the same environment. Candidate hit lists generated by sum rank, median absolute deviation, z-score, and strictly standardized mean difference were compared within and between whole genome screens. Application of these analysis methodologies within a single screening dataset using a fixed threshold equivalent to a p-value ≤ 0.001 resulted in hit lists ranging from 82 to 1,140 members and highlighted the tremendous impact analysis methodology has on hit list composition. Intra- and inter-screen reproducibility was significantly influenced by the analysis methodology and ranged from 32% to 99%. This study also highlighted the power of testing at least two independent siRNAs for each gene product in primary screens. To facilitate validation we conclude by suggesting methods to reduce false discovery at the primary screening stage.
In this study we present the first comprehensive comparison of multiple analysis strategies, and demonstrate the impact of the analysis methodology on the composition of the “hit list”. Therefore, we propose that the entire dataset derived from functional genome-scale screens, especially if publicly funded, should be made available as is done with data derived from gene expression and genome-wide association studies.
PMCID: PMC3149892  PMID: 20625183
RNA interference; analysis; RNAi screen analysis; siRNA; RNAi; siRNA screening; sum rank; median absolute deviation; strictly standardized mean difference; genome-wide; whole-genome; comparison; overlap; hit list
3.  Functional genomics approach for the identification of human host factors supporting dengue viral propagation 
Dengue virus (DENV) is endemic throughout tropical regions around the world and there are no approved treatments or anti-transmission agents currently available. Consequently, there exists an enormous unmet need to treat the human diseases caused by DENV and block viral transmission by the mosquito vector. RNAi screening represents an efficient method to expand the pool of known host factors that could become viable targets for treatments or provide rationale to consider available drugs as anti-DENV treatments. We developed a high throughput siRNA-based screening protocol that can identify human DENV host factors. The protocol herein describes the materials and the procedures necessary to screen a human cell line in order to identify genes which are either necessary for or restrict DENV propagation at any stage in the viral life cycle.
PMCID: PMC4075997  PMID: 24696344
RNA interference (RNAi); dengue virus; yellow fever virus; whole genome RNAi screening; whole genome siRNA screening; dengue virus host factors; flavivirus
4.  Discovery of Insect and Human Dengue Virus Host Factors 
Nature  2009;458(7241):1047-1050.
Dengue fever (DF) is the most frequent arthropod-borne viral disease of humans, with almost half of the world's population at risk of infection1. The high prevalence, lack of an effective vaccine, and absence of specific treatment conspire to make DF a global public health threat1, 2. Given their compact genomes, dengue viruses (DENV 1-4) and other flaviviruses likely require an extensive number of host factors; however, only a limited number of human, and an even smaller number of insect host factors have been identified3-10. To discover insect host factors required for DENV-2 propagation, we carried out a genome-wide RNA interference screen in Drosophila melanogaster cells using a well-established 22,632 dsRNA library. This screen identified 116 candidate dengue virus host factors (DVHFs) (Supplementary Fig. 1). While some were previously associated with flaviviruses (e.g., V-ATPases and alpha-glucosidases)3-5, 7, 9, 10, most DVHFs were newly implicated in DENV propagation. The dipteran DVHFs had eighty-two readily recognizable human homologues and, using a targeted siRNA screen, we showed that forty-two of these are human DVHFs. This indicates remarkable conservation of required factors between dipteran and human hosts. This work suggests novel approaches to control infection in the insect vector and the mammalian host.
PMCID: PMC3462662  PMID: 19396146
5.  G Protein-Coupled Receptor Kinase 2 Promotes Flaviviridae Entry and Replication 
Flaviviruses cause a wide range of severe diseases ranging from encephalitis to hemorrhagic fever. Discovery of host factors that regulate the fate of flaviviruses in infected cells could provide insight into the molecular mechanisms of infection and therefore facilitate the development of anti-flaviviral drugs. We performed genome-scale siRNA screens to discover human host factors required for yellow fever virus (YFV) propagation. Using a 2×2 siRNA pool screening format and a duplicate of the screen, we identified a high confidence list of YFV host factors. To find commonalities between flaviviruses, these candidates were compared to host factors previously identified for West Nile virus (WNV) and dengue virus (DENV). This comparison highlighted a potential requirement for the G protein-coupled receptor kinase family, GRKs, for flaviviral infection. The YFV host candidate GRK2 (also known as ADRBK1) was validated both in siRNA-mediated knockdown HuH-7 cells and in GRK−/− mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Additionally, we showed that GRK2 was required for efficient propagation of DENV and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) indicating that GRK2 requirement is conserved throughout the Flaviviridae. Finally, we found that GRK2 participates in multiple distinct steps of the flavivirus life cycle by promoting both entry and RNA synthesis. Together, our findings identified GRK2 as a novel regulator of flavivirus infection and suggest that inhibition of GRK2 function may constitute a new approach for treatment of flavivirus associated diseases.
Author Summary
The Flavivirus genus includes several emergent and reemergent viruses, such as dengue and yellow fever viruses, which cause severe diseases in humans for which there is no approved treatment. Flaviviruses are transmitted to humans by arthropods and they rely on scores of vertebrate and invertebrate factors to replicate in these disparate hosts. Identifying the host factors involved in viral propagation is critical to understanding the molecular mechanisms of infection and the development of new therapeutics. To identify human host factors required for yellow fever virus propagation, we completed two genome-scale siRNA screens. Among the candidates discovered were the G protein-coupled receptor kinases GRK2 and GRK4. We focused on the protein GRK2, a kinase first identified for its role in cellular signal transduction. We found that GRK2 was a host factor needed for productive infection by yellow fever, dengue and hepatitis C viruses and was required for both viral entry and efficient replication of the viral genome. GRKs, which are considered druggable, may be used as targets to develop broadspectrum anti-flavivirals.
PMCID: PMC3441407  PMID: 23029581

Results 1-5 (5)