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1.  Small RNA profiling of Dengue virus-mosquito interactions implicates the PIWI RNA pathway in anti-viral defense 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:45.
Small RNA (sRNA) regulatory pathways (SRRPs) are important to anti-viral defence in mosquitoes. To identify critical features of the virus infection process in Dengue serotype 2 (DENV2)-infected Ae. aegypti, we deep-sequenced small non-coding RNAs. Triplicate biological replicates were used so that rigorous statistical metrics could be applied.
In addition to virus-derived siRNAs (20-23 nts) previously reported for other arbovirus-infected mosquitoes, we show that PIWI pathway sRNAs (piRNAs) (24-30 nts) and unusually small RNAs (usRNAs) (13-19 nts) are produced in DENV-infected mosquitoes. We demonstrate that a major catalytic enzyme of the siRNA pathway, Argonaute 2 (Ago2), co-migrates with a ~1 megadalton complex in adults prior to bloodfeeding. sRNAs were cloned and sequenced from Ago2 immunoprecipitations. Viral sRNA patterns change over the course of infection. Host sRNAs were mapped to the published aedine transcriptome and subjected to analysis using edgeR (Bioconductor). We found that sRNA profiles are altered early in DENV2 infection, and mRNA targets from mitochondrial, transcription/translation, and transport functional categories are affected. Moreover, small non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), such as tRNAs, spliceosomal U RNAs, and snoRNAs are highly enriched in DENV-infected samples at 2 and 4 dpi.
These data implicate the PIWI pathway in anti-viral defense. Changes to host sRNA profiles indicate that specific cellular processes are affected during DENV infection, such as mitochondrial function and ncRNA levels. Together, these data provide important progress in understanding the DENV2 infection process in Ae. aegypti.
PMCID: PMC3060848  PMID: 21356105
2.  The RNA interference pathway affects midgut infection- and escape barriers for Sindbis virus in Aedes aegypti 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:130.
The RNA interference (RNAi) pathway acts as an innate antiviral immune response in Aedes aegypti, modulating arbovirus infection of mosquitoes. Sindbis virus (SINV; family: Togaviridae, genus: Alphavirus) is an arbovirus that infects Ae. aegypti in the laboratory. SINV strain TR339 encounters a midgut escape barrier (MEB) during infection of Ae. aegypti. The nature of this barrier is not well understood. To investigate the role of the midgut as the central organ determining vector competence for arboviruses, we generated transgenic mosquitoes in which the RNAi pathway was impaired in midgut tissue of bloodfed females. We used these mosquitoes to reveal effects of RNAi impairment in the midgut on SINV replication, midgut infection and dissemination efficiencies, and mosquito longevity.
As a novel tool for studying arbovirus-mosquito interactions, we engineered a transgenic mosquito line with an impaired RNAi pathway in the midgut of bloodfed females by silencing expression of the Aa-dcr2 gene. In midgut tissue of the transgenic Carb/dcr16 line, Aa-dcr2 expression was reduced ~50% between 1-7 days post-bloodmeal (pbm) when compared to the recipient mosquito strain. After infection with SINV-TR339EGFP, Aa-dcr2 expression levels were enhanced in both mosquito strains. In the RNAi pathway impaired mosquito strain SINV titers and midgut infection rates were significantly higher at 7 days pbm. There was also a strong tendency for increased virus dissemination rates among the transgenic mosquitoes. Between 7-14 days pbm, SINV was diminished in midgut tissue of the transgenic mosquitoes. Transgenic impairment of the RNAi pathway and/or SINV infection did not affect longevity of the mosquitoes.
We showed that RNAi impaired transgenic mosquitoes are a useful tool for studying arbovirus-mosquito interactions at the molecular level. Following ingestion by Ae. aegypti, the recombinant SINV-TR339EGFP was confronted with both MEB and a midgut infection barrier (MIB). Impairment of the RNAi pathway in the midgut strongly reduced both midgut barriers for the virus. This confirms that the endogenous RNAi pathway of Ae. aegypti modulates vector competence for SINV in the midgut. The RNAi pathway acts as a gatekeeper to the incoming virus by affecting infection rate of the midgut, intensity of infection, and dissemination from the midgut to secondary tissues.
PMCID: PMC2877022  PMID: 20426860
3.  Suppression of RNA interference increases alphavirus replication and virus-associated mortality in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:49.
Arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) can persistently infect and cause limited damage to mosquito vectors. RNA interference (RNAi) is a mosquito antiviral response important in restricting RNA virus replication and has been shown to be active against some arboviruses. The goal of this study was to use a recombinant Sindbis virus (SINV; family Togaviridae; genus Alphavirus) that expresses B2 protein of Flock House virus (FHV; family Nodaviridae; genus Alphanodavirus), a protein that inhibits RNAi, to determine the effects of linking arbovirus infection with RNAi inhibition.
B2 protein expression from SINV (TE/3'2J) inhibited the accumulation of non-specific small RNAs in Aedes aegypti mosquito cell culture and virus-specific small RNAs both in infected cell culture and Ae. aegypti mosquitoes. More viral genomic and subgenomic RNA accumulated in cells and mosquitoes infected with TE/3'2J virus expressing B2 (TE/3'2J/B2) compared to TE/3'2J and TE/3'2J virus expressing GFP. TE/3'2J/B2 exhibited increased infection rates, dissemination rates, and infectious virus titers in mosquitoes following oral bloodmeal. Following infectious oral bloodmeal, significantly more mosquitoes died when TE/3'2J/B2 was ingested. The virus was 100% lethal following intrathoracic inoculation of multiple mosquito species and lethality was dose-dependent in Ae. aegypti.
We show that RNAi is active in Ae. aegypti cell culture and that B2 protein inhibits RNAi in mosquito cells when expressed by a recombinant SINV. Also, SINV more efficiently replicates in mosquito cells when RNAi is inhibited. Finally, TE/3'2J/B2 kills mosquitoes in a dose-dependent manner independent of infection route and mosquito species.
PMCID: PMC2660349  PMID: 19265532
4.  Aedes aegypti uses RNA interference in defense against Sindbis virus infection 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:47.
RNA interference (RNAi) is an important anti-viral defense mechanism. The Aedes aegypti genome encodes RNAi component orthologs, however, most populations of this mosquito are readily infected by, and subsequently transmit flaviviruses and alphaviruses. The goal of this study was to use Ae. aegypti as a model system to determine how the mosquito's anti-viral RNAi pathway interacts with recombinant Sindbis virus (SINV; family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus).
SINV (TR339-eGFP) (+) strand RNA, infectious virus titers and infection rates transiently increased in mosquitoes following dsRNA injection to cognate Ago2, Dcr2, or TSN mRNAs. Detection of SINV RNA-derived small RNAs at 2 and 7 days post-infection in non-silenced mosquitoes provided important confirmation of RNAi pathway activity. Two different recombinant SINV viruses (MRE16-eGFP and TR339-eGFP) with significant differences in infection kinetics were used to delineate vector/virus interactions in the midgut. We show virus-dependent effects on RNAi component transcript and protein levels during infection. Monitoring midgut Ago2, Dcr2, and TSN transcript levels during infection revealed that only TSN transcripts were significantly increased in midguts over blood-fed controls. Ago2 protein levels were depleted immediately following a non-infectious bloodmeal and varied during SINV infection in a virus-dependent manner.
We show that silencing RNAi components in Ae. aegypti results in transient increases in SINV replication. Furthermore, Ae. aegypti RNAi is active during SINV infection as indicated by production of virus-specific siRNAs. Lastly, the RNAi response varies in a virus-dependent manner. These data define important features of RNAi anti-viral defense in Ae. aegypti.
PMCID: PMC2278134  PMID: 18366655
5.  Dengue virus type 2: replication and tropisms in orally infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:9.
To be transmitted by its mosquito vector, dengue virus (DENV) must infect midgut epithelial cells, replicate and disseminate into the hemocoel, and finally infect the salivary glands, which is essential for transmission. The extrinsic incubation period (EIP) is very relevant epidemiologically and is the time required from the ingestion of virus until it can be transmitted to the next vertebrate host. The EIP is conditioned by the kinetics and tropisms of virus replication in its vector. Here we document the virogenesis of DENV-2 in newly-colonized Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from Chetumal, Mexico in order to understand better the effect of vector-virus interactions on dengue transmission.
After ingestion of DENV-2, midgut infections in Chetumal mosquitoes were characterized by a peak in virus titers between 7 and 10 days post-infection (dpi). The amount of viral antigen and viral titers in the midgut then declined, but viral RNA levels remained stable. The presence of DENV-2 antigen in the trachea was positively correlated with virus dissemination from the midgut. DENV-2 antigen was found in salivary gland tissue in more than a third of mosquitoes at 4 dpi. Unlike in the midgut, the amount of viral antigen (as well as the percent of infected salivary glands) increased with time. DENV-2 antigen also accumulated and increased in neural tissue throughout the EIP. DENV-2 antigen was detected in multiple tissues of the vector, but unlike some other arboviruses, was not detected in muscle.
Our results suggest that the EIP of DENV-2 in its vector may be shorter that the previously reported and that the tracheal system may facilitate DENV-2 dissemination from the midgut. Mosquito organs (e.g. midgut, neural tissue, and salivary glands) differed in their response to DENV-2 infection.
PMCID: PMC1797809  PMID: 17263893

Results 1-5 (5)