Characterization of m 6 A modifications in the contemporary Zika virus genome and host cellular transcripts

J Med Virol. 2022 May 19. doi: 10.1002/jmv.27869. Online ahead of print.


Zika virus (ZIKV) suddenly evolved from a neglected arthropod-borne flavivirus into a pandemic pathogen during 2015-2016. A panel of amino acid mutations has been shown to be responsible for the enhanced neurovirulence and transmissibility of ZIKV. Recent studies have demonstrated that ZIKV genomic RNA is modified by host N6-methyladenosine (m6 A) machinery during viral replication in host cells, and the m6 A profiles vary among different isolates and different host cells. In the present study, using a contemporary Asian ZIKV strain isolated in 2019 (SZ1901) as a model, we profiled m6 A modifications on both the viral genome RNA and cellular transcripts from the ZIKV-infected human hepatocarcinoma cell line Huh7. Methylated RNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeRIP-seq) identified a unique m6 A map in the genome of ZIKV strain SZ1901 that is different from all previous isolates. Meanwhile, ZIKV infection induced m6 A upregulation in the CDS regions but downregulation in the 3' untranslated region of host RNA transcripts. The m6 A peak intensity in the majority of host genes was downregulated, including ISG-related genes. Overall, our study describes unique viral and host m6 A profiles in contemporary ZIKV-infected Huh7 cells, highlighting the complexity and importance of m6 A modification during viral infection.

Keywords: evolution; flavirus; host range; infection; virus classification.