RNA interference is essential to modulating the pathogenesis of mosquito-borne viruses in the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti

G. H. Samuel, T. Pohlenz, Y. Dong, N. Coskun, Z. N. Adelman, G. Dimopoulos and K. M. Myles,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  120:e2213701120. 2023.

While it has long been known that the transmission of mosquito-borne viruses depends on the establishment of persistent and nonlethal infections in the invertebrate host, specific roles for the insects? antiviral immune pathways in modulating the pathogenesis of viral infections is the subject of speculation and debate. Here, we show that a loss-of-function mutation in the Aedes aegypti Dicer-2 (Dcr-2) gene renders the insect acutely susceptible to a disease phenotype upon infection with pathogens in multiple virus families associated with important human diseases. Additional interrogation of the disease phenotype demonstrated that the virus-induced pathology is controlled through a canonical RNA interference (RNAi) pathway, which functions as a resistance mechanism. These results suggest comparatively modest contributions of proposed tolerance mechanisms to the fitness of A. aegypti infected with these pathogens. Similarly, the production of virus-derived piwi-interacting RNAs (vpiRNAs) was not sufficient to prevent the pathology associated with viral infections in Dcr-2 null mutants, also suggesting a less critical, or potentially secondary, role for vpiRNAs in antiviral immunity. These findings have important implications for understanding the ecological and evolutionary interactions occurring between A. aegypti and the pathogens they transmit to human and animal hosts.

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