Quantification of influenza virus mini viral RNA dynamics using Cas13

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 May 2:2023.11.03.565460. doi: 10.1101/2023.11.03.565460.

Abstract

Influenza A virus RNA synthesis produces full-length and aberrant RNA molecules, which include defective viral genomes (DVG) and mini viral RNAs (mvRNA). Sequencing approaches have shown that aberrant RNA species may be present during infection, and that they can vary in size, segment origin, and sequence. Moreover, a subset of aberrant RNA molecules can bind and activate host pathogen receptor retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I), leading to innate immune signaling and the expression of type I and III interferons. Understanding the kinetics and distribution of these immunostimulatory aberrant RNA sequences is important for understanding their function in IAV infection. Here, we use an amplification-free LbuCas13a-based detection method to quantify mvRNA amplification dynamics and subcellular distributions. We show that our assay can quantify the copy numbers of specific mvRNA sequences in infected tissue culture cells, ferret upper and lower respiratory tract tissue infected with two different pandemic H1N1 IAV strains, or clinical nasopharyngeal swab extracts of hospitalized patients infected with seasonal H1N1 or H3N2 strains. In addition, we find dynamic differences between immunostimulatory and non-immunostimulatory mvRNAs, as well as among mvRNAs derived from different segments, during IAV infection. Overall, our results reveal a hitherto hidden diversity in the behavior of IAV mvRNAs and suggest that individual aberrant RNAs are not produced stochastically.

Keywords: CRISPR; Cas13; RIG-I; RNA polymerase; influenza virus; innate immune; mini viral RNA; t-loop.

Publication types

  • Preprint