Viral Decoys: The Only Two Herpesviruses Infecting Invertebrates Evolved Different Transcriptional Strategies to Deflect Post-Transcriptional Editing

Viruses. 2021 Sep 30;13(10):1971. doi: 10.3390/v13101971.


The highly versatile group of Herpesviruses cause disease in a wide range of hosts. In invertebrates, only two herpesviruses are known: the malacoherpesviruses HaHV-1 and OsHV-1 infecting gastropods and bivalves, respectively. To understand viral transcript architecture and diversity we first reconstructed full-length viral genomes of HaHV-1 infecting Haliotis diversicolor supertexta and OsHV-1 infecting Scapharca broughtonii by DNA-seq. We then used RNA-seq over the time-course of experimental infections to establish viral transcriptional dynamics, followed by PacBio long-read sequencing of full-length transcripts to untangle viral transcript architectures at two selected time points. Despite similarities in genome structure, in the number of genes and in the diverse transcriptomic architectures, we measured a ten-fold higher transcript variability in HaHV-1, with more extended antisense gene transcription. Transcriptional dynamics also appeared different, both in timing and expression trends. Both viruses were heavily affected by post-transcriptional modifications performed by ADAR1 affecting sense-antisense gene pairs forming dsRNAs. However, OsHV-1 concentrated these modifications in a few genomic hotspots, whereas HaHV-1 diluted ADAR1 impact by elongated and polycistronic transcripts distributed over its whole genome. These transcriptional strategies might thus provide alternative potential roles for sense-antisense transcription in viral transcriptomes to evade the host's immune response in different virus-host combinations.

Keywords: ADAR editing; HaHV-1; OsHV-1; PacBio SMRT; antisense transcription; host defenses; long-read sequencing; malacoherpesvirus.