Viruses have been shown to be equipped with regulatory RNAs to evade host defense system. It has long been known that rabies virus (RABV) transcribes a small regulatory RNA, leader RNA (leRNA), which mediates the transition from viral RNA transcription to replication. However, the detailed molecular mechanism remains enigmatic. In the present study, we determined the genetic architecture of RABV leRNA and demonstrated its inhibitory effect on replication of wild-type rabies, DRV-AH08. The RNA immunoprecipitation results suggest that leRNA inhibits RABV replication via interfering the binding of RABV nucleoprotein with genomic RNA. Furthermore, we identified heat shock cognate 70 kDa protein (Hsc70) as a leRNA host cellular interacting protein, of which the expression level was dynamically regulated by RABV infection. Notably, our data suggest that Hsc70 was involved in suppressing RABV replication by leader RNA. Finally, our experiments imply that leRNA might be potentially useful as a novel drug in rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. Together, this study suggested leRNA in concert with its host interacting protein Hsc70, dynamically down-regulate RABV replication.
Keywords: Hsc70; RNA-Protein interaction; leader RNA (LeRNA); post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP); rabies virus (RABV).