The function of the RIG-I-like receptors (RLRs; including RIG-I, MDA5, and LGP2) as key cytoplasmic sensors of viral pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) has been subjected to numerous pathogenic challenges and has undergone a dynamic evolution. We found evolutionary evidence that RIG-I was lost in the Chinese tree shrew lineage. Along with the loss of RIG-I, both MDA5 (tMDA5) and LGP2 (tLGP2) have undergone strong positive selection in the tree shrew. tMDA5 or tMDA5/tLGP2 could sense Sendai virus (an RNA virus posed as a RIG-I agonist) for inducing type I IFN, although conventional RIG-I and MDA5 were thought to recognize distinct RNA structures and viruses. tMDA5 interacted with adaptor tMITA (STINGTMEM173/ERIS), which was reported to bind only with RIG-I. The positively selected sites in tMDA5 endowed the substitute function for the lost RIG-I. These findings provided insights into the adaptation and functional diversity of innate antiviral activity in vertebrates.
Keywords: MDA5; RIG-I; functional replacement; positive selection; tree shrew.