Background: ADARs are RNA editing enzymes that target double stranded RNA and convert adenosine to inosine, which is read by translation machinery as if it were guanosine. Aside from their role in generating protein diversity in the central nervous system, ADARs have been implicated in the hypermutation of some RNA viruses, although why this hypermutation occurs is not well understood.
Results: Here we describe the hypermutation of adenosines to guanosines in the genome of the sigma virus--a negative sense RNA virus that infects Drosophila melanogaster. The clustering of these mutations and the context in which they occur indicates that they have been caused by ADARs. However, ADAR-editing of viral RNA is either rare or edited viral RNA are rapidly degraded, as we only detected evidence for editing in two of the 104 viral isolates we studied.
Conclusion: This is the first evidence for ADARs targeting viruses outside of mammals, and it raises the possibility that ADARs could play a role in the antiviral defences of insects.