Publications by authors named "Melanie McFarlane"

19 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Sugar feeding protects against arboviral infection by enhancing gut immunity in the mosquito vector Aedes aegypti.

PLoS Pathog 2021 Sep 2;17(9):e1009870. Epub 2021 Sep 2.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

As mosquito females require a blood meal to reproduce, they can act as vectors of numerous pathogens, such as arboviruses (e.g. Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses), which constitute a substantial worldwide public health burden. In addition to blood meals, mosquito females can also take sugar meals to get carbohydrates for their energy reserves. It is now recognised that diet is a key regulator of health and disease outcome through interactions with the immune system. However, this has been mostly studied in humans and model organisms. So far, the impact of sugar feeding on mosquito immunity and in turn, how this could affect vector competence for arboviruses has not been explored. Here, we show that sugar feeding increases and maintains antiviral immunity in the digestive tract of the main arbovirus vector Aedes aegypti. Our data demonstrate that the gut microbiota does not mediate the sugar-induced immunity but partly inhibits it. Importantly, sugar intake prior to an arbovirus-infected blood meal further protects females against infection with arboviruses from different families. Sugar feeding blocks arbovirus initial infection and dissemination from the gut and lowers infection prevalence and intensity, thereby decreasing the transmission potential of female mosquitoes. Finally, we show that the antiviral role of sugar is mediated by sugar-induced immunity. Overall, our findings uncover a crucial role of sugar feeding in mosquito antiviral immunity which in turn decreases vector competence for arboviruses. Since Ae. aegypti almost exclusively feed on blood in some natural settings, our findings suggest that this lack of sugar intake could increase the spread of mosquito-borne arboviral diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1009870DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8412342PMC
September 2021

The Aedes aegypti Domino Ortholog p400 Regulates Antiviral Exogenous Small Interfering RNA Pathway Activity and Expression.

mSphere 2020 04 8;5(2). Epub 2020 Apr 8.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, Scotland

Arboviruses are pathogens of humans and animals. A better understanding of the interactions between these pathogens and the arthropod vectors, such as mosquitoes, that transmit them is necessary to develop novel control measures. A major antiviral pathway in the mosquito vector is the exogenous small interfering RNA (exo-siRNA) pathway, which is induced by arbovirus-derived double-stranded RNA in infected cells. Although recent work has shown the key role played by Argonaute-2 (Ago-2) and Dicer-2 (Dcr-2) in this pathway, the regulatory mechanisms that govern these pathways have not been studied in mosquitoes. Here, we show that the Domino ortholog p400 has antiviral activity against the alphavirus Semliki Forest virus () both in -derived cells and Antiviral activity of p400 was also demonstrated against chikungunya virus () and Bunyamwera virus (e) but not Zika virus (). p400 was found to be expressed across mosquito tissues and regulated but not transcript levels in mosquitoes. These findings provide novel insights into the regulation of an important aedine exo-siRNA pathway effector protein, Ago-2, by the Domino ortholog p400. They add functional insights to previous observations of this protein's antiviral and RNA interference regulatory activities in Female mosquitoes are vectors of human-infecting arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses). In recent decades, the incidence of arthropod-borne viral infections has grown dramatically. Vector competence is influenced by many factors, including the mosquito's antiviral defenses. The exogenous small interfering RNA (siRNA) pathway is a major antiviral response restricting arboviruses in mosquitoes. While the roles of the effectors of this pathway, Argonaute-2 and Dicer-2 are well characterized, nothing is known about its regulation in mosquitoes. In this study, we demonstrate that p400, whose ortholog Domino in is a chromatin-remodeling ATPase member of the Tip60 complex, regulates siRNA pathway activity and controls expression levels. In addition, we found p400 to have antiviral activity against different arboviruses. Therefore, our study provides new insights into the regulation of the antiviral response in mosquitoes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00081-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7142294PMC
April 2020

The Antiviral RNAi Response in Vector and Non-vector Cells against Orthobunyaviruses.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2017 01 6;11(1):e0005272. Epub 2017 Jan 6.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Background: Vector arthropods control arbovirus replication and spread through antiviral innate immune responses including RNA interference (RNAi) pathways. Arbovirus infections have been shown to induce the exogenous small interfering RNA (siRNA) and Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) pathways, but direct antiviral activity by these host responses in mosquito cells has only been demonstrated against a limited number of positive-strand RNA arboviruses. For bunyaviruses in general, the relative contribution of small RNA pathways in antiviral defences is unknown.

Methodology/principal Findings: The genus Orthobunyavirus in the Bunyaviridae family harbours a diverse range of mosquito-, midge- and tick-borne arboviruses. We hypothesized that differences in the antiviral RNAi response in vector versus non-vector cells may exist and that could influence viral host range. Using Aedes aegypti-derived mosquito cells, mosquito-borne orthobunyaviruses and midge-borne orthobunyaviruses we showed that bunyavirus infection commonly induced the production of small RNAs and the effects of the small RNA pathways on individual viruses differ in specific vector-arbovirus interactions.

Conclusions/significance: These findings have important implications for our understanding of antiviral RNAi pathways and orthobunyavirus-vector interactions and tropism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0005272DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5245901PMC
January 2017

Wolbachia restricts insect-specific flavivirus infection in Aedes aegypti cells.

J Gen Virol 2016 Nov 28;97(11):3024-3029. Epub 2016 Sep 28.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow G61 1QH, Scotland, UK.

Mosquito-borne viruses are known to cause disease in humans and livestock and are often difficult to control due to the lack of specific antivirals and vaccines. The Wolbachia endosymbiont has been widely studied for its ability to restrict positive-strand RNA virus infection in mosquitoes, although little is known about the precise antiviral mechanism. In recent years, a variety of insect-specific viruses have been discovered in mosquitoes and an interaction with mosquito-borne viruses has been reported for some of them; however, nothing is known about the effect of Wolbachia on insect-specific virus infection in mosquitoes. Here, we show that transinfection of the Drosophila-derived wMelPop Wolbachia strain into Aedes aegypti-derived cells resulted in inhibition and even clearance of the persistent cell-fusing agent flavivirus infection in these cells. This broadens the antiviral activity of Wolbachia from acute infections to persistent infections and from arboviruses to mosquito-specific viruses. In contrast, no effect on the Phasi Charoen-like bunyavirus persistent infection in these cells was observed, suggesting a difference in Wolbachia inhibition between positive- and negative-strand RNA viruses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1099/jgv.0.000617DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5120408PMC
November 2016

The Importance of Socio-Economic Versus Environmental Risk Factors for Reported Dengue Cases in Java, Indonesia.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2016 09 7;10(9):e0004964. Epub 2016 Sep 7.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Background: Dengue is a major mosquito-borne viral disease and an important public health problem. Identifying which factors are important determinants in the risk of dengue infection is critical in supporting and guiding preventive measures. In South-East Asia, half of all reported fatal infections are recorded in Indonesia, yet little is known about the epidemiology of dengue in this country.

Methodology/principal Findings: Hospital-reported dengue cases in Banyumas regency, Central Java were examined to build Bayesian spatial and spatio-temporal models assessing the influence of climatic, demographic and socio-economic factors on the risk of dengue infection. A socio-economic factor linking employment type and economic status was the most influential on the risk of dengue infection in the Regency. Other factors such as access to healthcare facilities and night-time temperature were also found to be associated with higher risk of reported dengue infection but had limited explanatory power.

Conclusions/significance: Our data suggest that dengue infections are triggered by indoor transmission events linked to socio-economic factors (employment type, economic status). Preventive measures in this area should therefore target also specific environments such as schools and work areas to attempt and reduce dengue burden in this community. Although our analysis did not account for factors such as variations in immunity which need further investigation, this study can advise preventive measures in areas with similar patterns of reported dengue cases and environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0004964DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5014450PMC
September 2016

Wolbachia Blocks Viral Genome Replication Early in Infection without a Transcriptional Response by the Endosymbiont or Host Small RNA Pathways.

PLoS Pathog 2016 Apr 18;12(4):e1005536. Epub 2016 Apr 18.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.

The intracellular endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia can protect insects against viral infection, and is being introduced into mosquito populations in the wild to block the transmission of arboviruses that infect humans and are a major public health concern. To investigate the mechanisms underlying this antiviral protection, we have developed a new model system combining Wolbachia-infected Drosophila melanogaster cell culture with the model mosquito-borne Semliki Forest virus (SFV; Togaviridae, Alphavirus). Wolbachia provides strong antiviral protection rapidly after infection, suggesting that an early stage post-infection is being blocked. Wolbachia does appear to have major effects on events distinct from entry, assembly or exit as it inhibits the replication of an SFV replicon transfected into the cells. Furthermore, it causes a far greater reduction in the expression of proteins from the 3' open reading frame than the 5' non-structural protein open reading frame, indicating that it is blocking the replication of viral RNA. Further to this separation of the replicase proteins and viral RNA in transreplication assays shows that uncoupling of viral RNA and replicase proteins does not overcome Wolbachia's antiviral activity. This further suggests that replicative processes are disrupted, such as translation or replication, by Wolbachia infection. This may occur by Wolbachia mounting an active antiviral response, but the virus did not cause any transcriptional response by the bacterium, suggesting that this is not the case. Host microRNAs (miRNAs) have been implicated in protection, but again we found that host cell miRNA expression was unaffected by the bacterium and neither do our findings suggest any involvement of the antiviral siRNA pathway. We conclude that Wolbachia may directly interfere with early events in virus replication such as translation of incoming viral RNA or RNA transcription, and this likely involves an intrinsic (as opposed to an induced) mechanism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1005536DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4835223PMC
April 2016

Dengue in Java, Indonesia: Relevance of Mosquito Indices as Risk Predictors.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2016 Mar 11;10(3):e0004500. Epub 2016 Mar 11.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Background: No vaccine is currently available for dengue virus (DENV), therefore control programmes usually focus on managing mosquito vector populations. Entomological surveys provide the most common means of characterising vector populations and predicting the risk of local dengue virus transmission. Despite Indonesia being a country strongly affected by DENV, only limited information is available on the local factors affecting DENV transmission and the suitability of available survey methods for assessing risk.

Methodology/principal Findings: We conducted entomological surveys in the Banyumas Regency (Central Java) where dengue cases occur on an annual basis. Four villages were sampled during the dry and rainy seasons: two villages where dengue was endemic, one where dengue cases occurred sporadically and one which was dengue-free. In addition to data for conventional larvae indices, we collected data on pupae indices, and collected adult mosquitoes for species identification in order to determine mosquito species composition and population density. Traditionally used larval indices (House indices, Container indices and Breteau indices) were found to be inadequate as indicators for DENV transmission risk. In contrast, species composition of adult mosquitoes revealed that competent vector species were dominant in dengue endemic and sporadic villages.

Conclusions/significance: Our data suggested that the utility of traditional larvae indices, which continue to be used in many dengue endemic countries, should be re-evaluated locally. The results highlight the need for validation of risk indicators and control strategies across DENV affected areas here and perhaps elsewhere in SE Asia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0004500DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4788303PMC
March 2016

Fighting Arbovirus Transmission: Natural and Engineered Control of Vector Competence in Aedes Mosquitoes.

Insects 2015 Mar 23;6(1):236-78. Epub 2015 Mar 23.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, G61 1QH, Scotland, UK.

Control of aedine mosquito vectors, either by mosquito population reduction or replacement with refractory mosquitoes, may play an essential role in the fight against arboviral diseases. In this review, we will focus on the development and application of biological approaches, both natural or engineered, to limit mosquito vector competence for arboviruses. The study of mosquito antiviral immunity has led to the identification of a number of host response mechanisms and proteins that are required to control arbovirus replication in mosquitoes, though more factors influencing vector competence are likely to be discovered. We will discuss key aspects of these pathways as targets either for selection of naturally resistant mosquito populations or for mosquito genetic manipulation. Moreover, we will consider the use of endosymbiotic bacteria such as Wolbachia, which in some cases have proven to be remarkably efficient in disrupting arbovirus transmission by mosquitoes, but also the use of naturally occurring insect-specific viruses that may interfere with arboviruses in mosquito vectors. Finally, we will discuss the use of paratransgenesis as well as entomopathogenic fungi, which are also proposed strategies to control vector competence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/insects6010236DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553541PMC
March 2015

Transcriptome analysis reveals the host response to Schmallenberg virus in bovine cells and antagonistic effects of the NSs protein.

BMC Genomics 2015 Apr 19;16:324. Epub 2015 Apr 19.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow G61 1QH, Scotland, UK.

Background: Schmallenberg virus (SBV) is a member of the Orthobunyavirus genus (Bunyaviridae family) causing malformations and abortions in ruminants. Although, as for other members of this family/genus, the non-structural protein NSs has been shown to be an interferon antagonist, very little is known regarding the overall inhibitory effects and targets of orthobunyavirus NSs proteins on host gene expression during infection. Therefore, using RNA-seq this study describes changes to the transcriptome of primary bovine cells following infection with Schmallenberg virus (SBV) or with a mutant lacking the non-structural protein NSs (SBVdelNSs) providing a detailed comparison of the effect of NSs expression on the host cell.

Results: The sequence reads from all samples (uninfected cells, SBV and SBVdelNSs) assembled well to the bovine host reference genome (on average 87.43% of the reads). During infection with SBVdelNSs, 649 genes were differentially expressed compared to uninfected cells (78.7% upregulated) and many of these were known antiviral and IFN-stimulated genes. On the other hand, only nine genes were differentially expressed in SBV infected cells compared to uninfected control cells, demonstrating the strong inhibitory effect of NSs on cellular gene expression. However, the majority of the genes that were expressed during SBV infection are involved in restriction of viral replication and spread indicating that SBV does not completely manage to shutdown the host antiviral response.

Conclusions: In this study we show the effects of SBV NSs on the transcriptome of infected cells as well as the cellular response to wild type SBV. Although NSs is very efficient in shutting down genes of the host innate response, a number of possible antiviral factors were identified. Thus the data from this study can serve as a base for more detailed mechanistic studies of SBV and other orthobunyaviruses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12864-015-1538-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4404599PMC
April 2015

Human Papillomavirus 16 Oncoprotein Expression Is Controlled by the Cellular Splicing Factor SRSF2 (SC35).

J Virol 2015 May 25;89(10):5276-87. Epub 2015 Feb 25.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Unlabelled: High-risk human papillomaviruses (HR-HPV) cause anogenital cancers, including cervical cancer, and head and neck cancers. Human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16) is the most prevalent HR-HPV. HPV oncogenesis is driven by two viral oncoproteins, E6 and E7, which are expressed through alternative splicing of a polycistronic RNA to yield four major splice isoforms (E6 full length, E6*I, E6*II, E6*X). The production of multiple mRNA isoforms from a single gene is controlled by serine/arginine-rich splicing factors (SRSFs), and HPV16 infection induces overexpression of a subset of these, SRSFs 1, 2, and 3. In this study, we examined whether these proteins could control HPV16 oncoprotein expression. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) depletion experiments revealed that SRSF1 did not affect oncoprotein RNA levels. While SRSF3 knockdown caused some reduction in E6E7 expression, depletion of SRSF2 resulted in a significant loss of E6E7 RNAs, resulting in reduced levels of the E6-regulated p53 proteins and E7 oncoprotein itself. SRSF2 contributed to the tumor phenotype of HPV16-positive cervical cancer cells, as its depletion resulted in decreased cell proliferation, reduced colony formation, and increased apoptosis. SRSF2 did not affect transcription from the P97 promoter that controls viral oncoprotein expression. Rather, RNA decay experiments showed that SRSF2 is required to maintain stability of E6E7 mRNAs. These data show that SRSF2 is a key regulator of HPV16 oncoprotein expression and cervical tumor maintenance.

Importance: Expression of the HPV16 oncoproteins E7 and E6 drives HPV-associated tumor formation. Although increased transcription may yield increased levels of E6E7 mRNAs, it is known that the RNAs can have increased stability upon integration into the host genome. SR splicing factors (SRSFs) control splicing but can also control other events in the RNA life cycle, including RNA stability. Previously, we demonstrated increased levels of SRSFs 1, 2, and 3 during cervical tumor progression. Now we show that SRSF2 is required for expression of E6E7 mRNAs in cervical tumor but not nontumor cells and may act by inhibiting their decay. SRSF2 depletion in W12 tumor cells resulted in increased apoptosis, decreased proliferation, and decreased colony formation, suggesting that SRSF2 has oncogenic functions in cervical tumor progression. SRSF function can be targeted by known drugs that inhibit SRSF phosphorylation, suggesting a possible new avenue in abrogating HPV oncoprotein activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.03434-14DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4442513PMC
May 2015

Antiviral immunity of Anopheles gambiae is highly compartmentalized, with distinct roles for RNA interference and gut microbiota.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Jan 29;112(2):E176-85. Epub 2014 Dec 29.

Unit of Genetics and Genomics of Insect Vectors, Department of Parasites and Insect Vectors and CNRS Unit of Hosts, Vectors, and Pathogens, Unité de Recherche Associée 3012, Paris, France; Department of Microbiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55108;

Arboviruses are transmitted by mosquitoes and other arthropods to humans and animals. The risk associated with these viruses is increasing worldwide, including new emergence in Europe and the Americas. Anopheline mosquitoes are vectors of human malaria but are believed to transmit one known arbovirus, o'nyong-nyong virus, whereas Aedes mosquitoes transmit many. Anopheles interactions with viruses have been little studied, and the initial antiviral response in the midgut has not been examined. Here, we determine the antiviral immune pathways of the Anopheles gambiae midgut, the initial site of viral infection after an infective blood meal. We compare them with the responses of the post-midgut systemic compartment, which is the site of the subsequent disseminated viral infection. Normal viral infection of the midgut requires bacterial flora and is inhibited by the activities of immune deficiency (Imd), JAK/STAT, and Leu-rich repeat immune factors. We show that the exogenous siRNA pathway, thought of as the canonical mosquito antiviral pathway, plays no detectable role in antiviral defense in the midgut but only protects later in the systemic compartment. These results alter the prevailing antiviral paradigm by describing distinct protective mechanisms in different body compartments and infection stages. Importantly, the presence of the midgut bacterial flora is required for full viral infectivity to Anopheles, in contrast to malaria infection, where the presence of the midgut bacterial flora is required for protection against infection. Thus, the enteric flora controls a reciprocal protection tradeoff in the vector for resistance to different human pathogens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1412984112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4299212PMC
January 2015

Characterization of Aedes aegypti innate-immune pathways that limit Chikungunya virus replication.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2014 Jul 24;8(7):e2994. Epub 2014 Jul 24.

Institut Pasteur, Department of Virology, Arboviruses and Insect Vectors, Paris, France.

Replication of arboviruses in their arthropod vectors is controlled by innate immune responses. The RNA sequence-specific break down mechanism, RNA interference (RNAi), has been shown to be an important innate antiviral response in mosquitoes. In addition, immune signaling pathways have been reported to mediate arbovirus infections in mosquitoes; namely the JAK/STAT, immune deficiency (IMD) and Toll pathways. Very little is known about these pathways in response to chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection, a mosquito-borne alphavirus (Togaviridae) transmitted by aedine species to humans resulting in a febrile and arthralgic disease. In this study, the contribution of several innate immune responses to control CHIKV replication was investigated. In vitro experiments identified the RNAi pathway as a key antiviral pathway. CHIKV was shown to repress the activity of the Toll signaling pathway in vitro but neither JAK/STAT, IMD nor Toll pathways were found to mediate antiviral activities. In vivo data further confirmed our in vitro identification of the vital role of RNAi in antiviral defence. Taken together these results indicate a complex interaction between CHIKV replication and mosquito innate immune responses and demonstrate similarities as well as differences in the control of alphaviruses and other arboviruses by mosquito immune pathways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0002994DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4109886PMC
July 2014

Induction and suppression of tick cell antiviral RNAi responses by tick-borne flaviviruses.

Nucleic Acids Res 2014 Aug 22;42(14):9436-46. Epub 2014 Jul 22.

MRC - University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow G11 5JR, UK The Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK

Arboviruses are transmitted by distantly related arthropod vectors such as mosquitoes (class Insecta) and ticks (class Arachnida). RNA interference (RNAi) is the major antiviral mechanism in arthropods against arboviruses. Unlike in mosquitoes, tick antiviral RNAi is not understood, although this information is important to compare arbovirus/host interactions in different classes of arbovirus vectos. Using an Ixodes scapularis-derived cell line, key Argonaute proteins involved in RNAi and the response against tick-borne Langat virus (Flaviviridae) replication were identified and phylogenetic relationships characterized. Analysis of small RNAs in infected cells showed the production of virus-derived small interfering RNAs (viRNAs), which are key molecules of the antiviral RNAi response. Importantly, viRNAs were longer (22 nucleotides) than those from other arbovirus vectors and mapped at highest frequency to the termini of the viral genome, as opposed to mosquito-borne flaviviruses. Moreover, tick-borne flaviviruses expressed subgenomic flavivirus RNAs that interfere with tick RNAi. Our results characterize the antiviral RNAi response in tick cells including phylogenetic analysis of genes encoding antiviral proteins, and viral interference with this pathway. This shows important differences in antiviral RNAi between the two major classes of arbovirus vectors, and our data broadens our understanding of arthropod antiviral RNAi.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nar/gku657DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4132761PMC
August 2014

Knockdown of piRNA pathway proteins results in enhanced Semliki Forest virus production in mosquito cells.

J Gen Virol 2013 Jul 4;94(Pt 7):1680-1689. Epub 2013 Apr 4.

The Pirbright Institute, Ash Road, Pirbright, Surrey GU24 0NF, UK.

The exogenous siRNA pathway is important in restricting arbovirus infection in mosquitoes. Less is known about the role of the PIWI-interacting RNA pathway, or piRNA pathway, in antiviral responses. Viral piRNA-like molecules have recently been described following infection of mosquitoes and derived cell lines with several arboviruses. The piRNA pathway has thus been suggested to function as an additional small RNA-mediated antiviral response to the known infection-induced siRNA response. Here we show that piRNA-like molecules are produced following infection with the naturally mosquito-borne Semliki Forest virus in mosquito cell lines. We show that knockdown of piRNA pathway proteins enhances the replication of this arbovirus and defines the contribution of piRNA pathway effectors, thus characterizing the antiviral properties of the piRNA pathway. In conclusion, arbovirus infection can trigger the piRNA pathway in mosquito cells, and knockdown of piRNA proteins enhances virus production.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1099/vir.0.053850-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3709635PMC
July 2013

Schmallenberg virus pathogenesis, tropism and interaction with the innate immune system of the host.

PLoS Pathog 2013 Jan 10;9(1):e1003133. Epub 2013 Jan 10.

MRC Centre for Virus Research, Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Schmallenberg virus (SBV) is an emerging orthobunyavirus of ruminants associated with outbreaks of congenital malformations in aborted and stillborn animals. Since its discovery in November 2011, SBV has spread very rapidly to many European countries. Here, we developed molecular and serological tools, and an experimental in vivo model as a platform to study SBV pathogenesis, tropism and virus-host cell interactions. Using a synthetic biology approach, we developed a reverse genetics system for the rapid rescue and genetic manipulation of SBV. We showed that SBV has a wide tropism in cell culture and "synthetic" SBV replicates in vitro as efficiently as wild type virus. We developed an experimental mouse model to study SBV infection and showed that this virus replicates abundantly in neurons where it causes cerebral malacia and vacuolation of the cerebral cortex. These virus-induced acute lesions are useful in understanding the progression from vacuolation to porencephaly and extensive tissue destruction, often observed in aborted lambs and calves in naturally occurring Schmallenberg cases. Indeed, we detected high levels of SBV antigens in the neurons of the gray matter of brain and spinal cord of naturally affected lambs and calves, suggesting that muscular hypoplasia observed in SBV-infected lambs is mostly secondary to central nervous system damage. Finally, we investigated the molecular determinants of SBV virulence. Interestingly, we found a biological SBV clone that after passage in cell culture displays increased virulence in mice. We also found that a SBV deletion mutant of the non-structural NSs protein (SBVΔNSs) is less virulent in mice than wild type SBV. Attenuation of SBV virulence depends on the inability of SBVΔNSs to block IFN synthesis in virus infected cells. In conclusion, this work provides a useful experimental framework to study the biology and pathogenesis of SBV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1003133DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3542112PMC
January 2013

RNA interference targets arbovirus replication in Culicoides cells.

J Virol 2013 Mar 26;87(5):2441-54. Epub 2012 Dec 26.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Arboviruses are transmitted to vertebrate hosts by biting arthropod vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, and midges. These viruses replicate in both arthropods and vertebrates and are thus exposed to different antiviral responses in these organisms. RNA interference (RNAi) is a sequence-specific RNA degradation mechanism that has been shown to play a major role in the antiviral response against arboviruses in mosquitoes. Culicoides midges are important vectors of arboviruses, known to transmit pathogens of humans and livestock such as bluetongue virus (BTV) (Reoviridae), Oropouche virus (Bunyaviridae), and likely the recently discovered Schmallenberg virus (Bunyaviridae). In this study, we investigated whether Culicoides cells possess an antiviral RNAi response and whether this is effective against arboviruses, including those with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) genomes, such as BTV. Using reporter gene-based assays, we established the presence of a functional RNAi response in Culicoides sonorensis-derived KC cells which is effective in inhibiting BTV infection. Sequencing of small RNAs from KC and Aedes aegypti-derived Aag2 cells infected with BTV or the unrelated Schmallenberg virus resulted in the production of virus-derived small interfering RNAs (viRNAs) of 21 nucleotides, similar to the viRNAs produced during arbovirus infections of mosquitoes. In addition, viRNA profiles strongly suggest that the BTV dsRNA genome is accessible to a Dicer-type nuclease. Thus, we show for the first time that midge cells target arbovirus replication by mounting an antiviral RNAi response mainly resembling that of other insect vectors of arboviruses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.02848-12DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3571378PMC
March 2013

Human papillomavirus regulation of SR proteins.

Biochem Soc Trans 2010 Aug;38(4):1116-21

Division of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK.

Splicing is a cellular process essential for mRNA biogenesis. There are two types of splicing: constitutive and alternative splicing. During constitutive splicing, non-coding intron sequences are removed and exonic coding sequences are spliced together to form mature mRNAs. Alternative splicing can maximize the coding capacity of the genome by specific alternative selection of exons from multi-exon metazoan pre-mRNAs. Splicing is a tightly regulated process, so when control is lost disease may occur. SR proteins (serine/arginine-rich proteins) are a family of highly conserved splicing regulators that are also involved in other steps in RNA biogenesis and expression. Many viruses have evolved to utilize the cellular splicing machinery to enhance their proteome from a limited number of genes. HPV (human papillomavirus) is an example of one such virus. The HPV transcription/replication factor E2 (early 2) specifically up-regulates expression of the SR proteins SF2/ASF (splicing factor 2/alternative splicing factor), SRp20 and SC35 in infected epithelial cells. These SR proteins are essential for viral RNA processing. SF2/ASF is a proto-oncogene that is also up-regulated in a number of cancers. For example, SF2/ASF, together with SRp20 and SC35 is selectively up-regulated in cervical tumours caused by persistent oncogenic HPV infection. However, the mode of SR protein up-regulation in tumours is different to the E2-directed transcriptional regulation in normal transient HPV infection. SR proteins could provide excellent targets for HPV antiviral therapy as well as anticancer therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BST0381116DOI Listing
August 2010

RNA splicing factors regulated by HPV16 during cervical tumour progression.

J Pathol 2009 Nov;219(3):383-91

Division of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK.

The most prevalent human papillomaviruses (HPVs) causing cervical disease are the 'high-risk' HPV types 16 and 18. All papillomaviruses express a transcription factor, E2, that can regulate viral and cellular gene expression. Recently, we demonstrated high-risk HPV E2-mediated transcriptional transactivation of SF2/ASF. This essential oncoprotein is a key member of a family of proteins, the SR proteins, that regulate constitutive and alternative splicing. Tight control of RNA splicing is necessary for the production of wild-type proteins. So, aberrant expression of SR proteins is involved in the aetiology of a range of human diseases, including cancer. Here we demonstrate epithelial differentiation-specific control of SF2/ASF in HPV16-infected keratinocytes in organotypic raft culture and in low-grade cervical lesions (CIN1). Further, we demonstrate HPV16 infection/differentiation-induced up-regulation of a specific subset of SR proteins and present evidence that HPV16 E2 controls expression of SRp20, SC35 and SRp75. Using a series of cell lines that model cervical tumour progression, we show that SF2/ASF, SRp20 and SC35 are specifically up-regulated in a model of cervical tumour progression. These SR proteins are also over-expressed in high-grade cervical lesions, indicating that they may all have oncogenic functions. SR proteins could be useful biomarkers for HPV-associated disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/path.2608DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2779514PMC
November 2009
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