Viral Infection Impacts Transposable Element Transcript Amounts in Drosophila

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Jun 2;117(22):12249-12257. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2006106117. Epub 2020 May 20.


Transposable elements (TEs) are genomic parasites that are found in all genomes, some of which display sequence similarity to certain viruses. In insects, TEs are controlled by the Piwi-interacting small interfering RNA (piRNA) pathway in gonads, while the small interfering RNA (siRNA) pathway is dedicated to TE somatic control and defense against viruses. So far, these two small interfering RNA pathways are considered to involve distinct molecular effectors and are described as independent. Using Sindbis virus (SINV) in Drosophila, here we show that viral infections affect TE transcript amounts via modulations of the piRNA and siRNA repertoires, with the clearest effects in somatic tissues. These results suggest that viral acute or chronic infections may impact TE activity and, thus, the tempo of genetic diversification. In addition, these results deserve further evolutionary considerations regarding potential benefits to the host, the virus, or the TEs.

Keywords: SINV; insect; piRNA; siRNA; transposon.

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