Wolbachia RNase HI contributes to virus blocking in the mosquito Aedes aegypti

M. Hussain, G. Zhang, M. Leitner, L. M. Hedges and S. Asgari,  iScience,  26:105836. 2023.

The endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia pipientis blocks replication of several arboviruses in transinfected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. However, the mechanism of virus blocking remains poorly understood. Here, we characterized an RNase HI gene from Wolbachia, which is rapidly induced in response to dengue virus (DENV) infection. Knocking down w RNase HI using antisense RNA in Wolbachia-transinfected mosquito cell lines and A. aegypti mosquitoes led to increased DENV replication. Furthermore, overexpression of wRNase HI, in the absence of Wolbachia, led to reduced replication of a positive sense RNA virus, but had no effect on a negative sense RNA virus, a familiar scenario in Wolbachia-infected cells. Altogether, our results provide compelling evidence for the missing link between early Wolbachia-mediated virus blocking and degradation of viral RNA. These findings and the successful pioneered knockdown of Wolbachia genes using antisense RNA in cell line and mosquitoes enable new ways to manipulate and study the complex endosymbiont-host interactions.

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