Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 23175368
J. Virol. 2013 Feb;87(3):1631-48
Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is a Phlebovirus (Bunyaviridae family) transmitted by mosquitoes. It infects humans and ruminants, causing dramatic epidemics and epizootics in Africa, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. While recent studies demonstrated the importance of the nonstructural protein NSs as a major component of virulence in vertebrates, little is known about infection of mosquito vectors. Here we studied RVFV infection in three different mosquito cell lines, Aag2 cells from Aedes aegypti and U4.4 and C6/36 cells from Aedes albopictus. In contrast with mammalian cells, where NSs forms nuclear filaments, U4.4 and Aag2 cells downregulated NSs expression such that NSs filaments were never formed in nuclei of U4.4 cells and disappeared at an early time postinfection in the case of Aag2 cells. On the contrary, in C6/36 cells, NSs nuclear filaments were visible during the entire time course of infection. Analysis of virus-derived small interfering RNAs (viRNAs) by deep sequencing indicated that production of viRNAs was very low in C6/36 cells, which are known to be Dicer-2 deficient but expressed some viRNAs presenting a Piwi signature. In contrast, Aag2 and U4.4 cells produced large amounts of viRNAs predominantly matching the S segment and displaying Dicer-2 and Piwi signatures. Whereas 21-nucleotide (nt) Dicer-2 viRNAs were prominent during early infection, the population of 24- to 27-nt Piwi RNAs (piRNAs) increased progressively and became predominant later during the acute infection and during persistence. In Aag2 and U4.4 cells, the combined actions of the Dicer-2 and Piwi pathways triggered an efficient antiviral response permitting, among other actions, suppression of NSs filament formation and allowing establishment of persistence. In C6/36 cells, Piwi-mediated RNA interference (RNAi) appeared to be sufficient to mount an antiviral response against a secondary infection with a superinfecting virus. This study provides new insights into the role of Dicer and Piwi in mosquito antiviral defense and the development of the antiviral response in mosquitoes.