Spatio-temporal characterization of the antiviral activity of the XRN1-DCP1/2 aggregation against cytoplasmic RNA viruses to prevent cell death

Cell Death Differ. 2020 Aug;27(8):2363-2382. doi: 10.1038/s41418-020-0509-0. Epub 2020 Feb 7.


Host nucleases are implicated in antiviral response through the processing of pathogen-derived nucleic acids. Among many host RNases, decapping enzymes DCP1 and 2, and 5'→3' exonuclease XRN1, which are components of the RNA decay machinery, have been extensively studied in prokaryotes, plants, and invertebrates but less so in mammalian systems. As a result, the implication of XRN1 and DCPs in viral replication, in particular, the spatio-temporal dynamics during RNA viral infections remains elusive. Here, we highlight that XRN1 and DCPs play a critical role in limiting several groups of RNA viral infections. This antiviral activity was not obvious in wild-type cells but clearly observed in type I interferon (IFN-I)-deficient cells. Mechanistically, infection with RNA viruses induced the enrichment of XRN1 and DCPs in viral replication complexes (vRCs), hence forming distinct cytoplasmic aggregates. These aggregates served as sites for direct interaction between XRN1, DCP1/2, and viral ribonucleoprotein that contains viral RNA (vRNA). Although these XRN1-DCP1/2-vRC-containing foci resemble antiviral stress granules (SGs) or P-body (PB), they did not colocalize with known SG markers and did not correlate with critical PB functions. Furthermore, the presence of 5' mono- and 5' triphosphate structures on vRNA was not required for the formation of XRN1-DCP1/2-vRC-containing foci. On the other hand, single-, double-stranded, and higher-ordered vRNA species play a role but are not deterministic for efficient formation of XRN1-DCP1/2 foci and consequent antiviral activity in a manner proportional to RNA length. These results highlight the mechanism behind the antiviral function of XRN1-DCP1/2 in RNA viral infections independent of IFN-I response, protein kinase R and PB function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Chickens
  • Cytoplasm / virology*
  • DNA Viruses / drug effects
  • Endoribonucleases / chemistry
  • Endoribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Exoribonucleases / metabolism*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Inclusion Bodies, Viral / metabolism
  • Interferon Type I / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Protein Aggregates*
  • Protein Domains
  • Protein Multimerization
  • RNA Viruses / drug effects
  • RNA Viruses / metabolism*
  • RNA Viruses / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Time Factors
  • Trans-Activators / chemistry
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Interferon Type I
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Phosphates
  • Protein Aggregates
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral
  • Trans-Activators
  • Endoribonucleases
  • Exoribonucleases
  • XRN1 protein, human
  • DCP1A protein, human
  • DCP2 protein, human