Novel Drosophila viruses encode host-specific suppressors of RNAi

PLoS Pathog. 2014 Jul 17;10(7):e1004256. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004256. eCollection 2014 Jul.


The ongoing conflict between viruses and their hosts can drive the co-evolution between host immune genes and viral suppressors of immunity. It has been suggested that an evolutionary 'arms race' may occur between rapidly evolving components of the antiviral RNAi pathway of Drosophila and viral genes that antagonize it. We have recently shown that viral protein 1 (VP1) of Drosophila melanogaster Nora virus (DmelNV) suppresses Argonaute-2 (AGO2)-mediated target RNA cleavage (slicer activity) to antagonize antiviral RNAi. Here we show that viral AGO2 antagonists of divergent Nora-like viruses can have host specific activities. We have identified novel Nora-like viruses in wild-caught populations of D. immigrans (DimmNV) and D. subobscura (DsubNV) that are 36% and 26% divergent from DmelNV at the amino acid level. We show that DimmNV and DsubNV VP1 are unable to suppress RNAi in D. melanogaster S2 cells, whereas DmelNV VP1 potently suppresses RNAi in this host species. Moreover, we show that the RNAi suppressor activity of DimmNV VP1 is restricted to its natural host species, D. immigrans. Specifically, we find that DimmNV VP1 interacts with D. immigrans AGO2, but not with D. melanogaster AGO2, and that it suppresses slicer activity in embryo lysates from D. immigrans, but not in lysates from D. melanogaster. This species-specific interaction is reflected in the ability of DimmNV VP1 to enhance RNA production by a recombinant Sindbis virus in a host-specific manner. Our results emphasize the importance of analyzing viral RNAi suppressor activity in the relevant host species. We suggest that rapid co-evolution between RNA viruses and their hosts may result in host species-specific activities of RNAi suppressor proteins, and therefore that viral RNAi suppressors could be host-specificity factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Argonaute Proteins* / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Argonaute Proteins* / genetics
  • Argonaute Proteins* / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Drosophila Proteins* / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Drosophila Proteins* / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins* / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA Viruses* / genetics
  • RNA Viruses* / metabolism
  • Viral Proteins* / genetics
  • Viral Proteins* / metabolism


  • AGO2 protein, Drosophila
  • Argonaute Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Viral Proteins

Associated data

  • GENBANK/FJ790488
  • GENBANK/HO000459
  • GENBANK/HO000794
  • GENBANK/KF242510
  • GENBANK/KF242511
  • GENBANK/KF362118