Background: Cellular membranes are crucial host components utilized by positive-strand RNA viruses for replication of their genomes. Published studies have suggested that the synthesis and distribution of membrane lipids are particularly important for the assembly and function of positive-strand RNA virus replication complexes. However, the impact of specific lipid metabolism pathways in this process have not been well defined, nor have potential changes in lipid expression associated with positive-strand RNA virus replication been examined in detail.
Results: In this study we used parallel and complementary global and targeted approaches to examine the impact of lipid metabolism on the replication of the well-studied model alphanodavirus Flock House virus (FHV). We found that FHV RNA replication in cultured Drosophila S2 cells stimulated the transcriptional upregulation of several lipid metabolism genes, and was also associated with increased phosphatidylcholine accumulation with preferential increases in lipid molecules with longer and unsaturated acyl chains. Furthermore, targeted RNA interference-mediated downregulation of candidate glycerophospholipid metabolism genes revealed a functional role of several genes in virus replication. In particular, we found that downregulation of Cct1 or Cct2, which encode essential enzymes for phosphatidylcholine biosynthesis, suppressed FHV RNA replication.
Conclusion: These results indicate that glycerophospholipid metabolism, and in particular phosphatidylcholine biosynthesis, plays an important role in FHV RNA replication. Furthermore, they provide a framework in which to further explore the impact of specific steps in lipid metabolism on FHV replication, and potentially identify novel cellular targets for the development of drugs to inhibit positive-strand RNA viruses.