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Concept: RNA virus


An unprecedented Ebola virus (EBOV) epidemic occurred in 2013-2016 in West Africa. Over this time the epidemic exponentially grew and moved to Europe and North America, with several imported cases and many Health Care Workers (HCW) infected. Better understanding of EBOV infection patterns in different body compartments is mandatory to develop new countermeasures, as well as to fully comprehend the pathways of human-to-human transmission. We have longitudinally explored the persistence of EBOV-specific negative sense genomic RNA (neg-RNA) and the presence of positive sense RNA (pos-RNA), including both replication intermediate (antigenomic-RNA) and messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules, in the upper and lower respiratory tract, as compared to plasma, in a HCW infected with EBOV in Sierra Leone, who was hospitalized in the high isolation facility of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases “Lazzaro Spallanzani” (INMI), Rome, Italy. We observed persistence of pos-RNA and neg-RNAs in longitudinally collected specimens of the lower respiratory tract, even after viral clearance from plasma, suggesting possible local replication. The purpose of the present study is to enhance the knowledge on the biological features of EBOV that can contribute to the human-to-human transmissibility and to develop effective intervention strategies. However, further investigation is needed in order to better understand the clinical meaning of viral replication and shedding in the respiratory tract.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Infectious disease, Microbiology, RNA, Infection, Messenger RNA, RNA virus


Mammalian genomes typically contain hundreds of thousands of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), derived from ancient retroviral infections. Using this molecular ‘fossil’ record, we reconstructed the natural history of a specific retrovirus lineage (ERV-Fc) that disseminated widely between ~33 and ~15 million years ago, corresponding to the Oligocene and early Miocene epochs. Intercontinental viral spread, numerous instances of interspecies transmission and emergence in hosts representing at least 11 mammalian orders, and a significant role for recombination in diversification of this viral lineage were also revealed. By reconstructing the canonical retroviral genes, we identified patterns of adaptation consistent with selection to maintain essential viral protein functions. Our results demonstrate the unique potential of the ERV fossil record for studying the processes of viral spread and emergence as they play out across macro-evolutionary timescales, such that looking back in time may prove insightful for predicting the long-term consequences of newly emerging viral infections.

Concepts: HIV, DNA, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Virus, RNA virus, Retrovirus, Retroviruses


Tilapia are an important global food source due to their omnivorous diet, tolerance for high-density aquaculture, and relative disease resistance. Since 2009, tilapia aquaculture has been threatened by mass die-offs in farmed fish in Israel and Ecuador. Here we report evidence implicating a novel orthomyxo-like virus in these outbreaks. The tilapia lake virus (TiLV) has a 10-segment, negative-sense RNA genome. The largest segment, segment 1, contains an open reading frame with weak sequence homology to the influenza C virus PB1 subunit. The other nine segments showed no homology to other viruses but have conserved, complementary sequences at their 5' and 3' termini, consistent with the genome organization found in other orthomyxoviruses.In situhybridization indicates TiLV replication and transcription at sites of pathology in the liver and central nervous system of tilapia with disease.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Virus, RNA, RNA virus, Influenza


The recent Zika virus outbreak highlights the need for low-cost diagnostics that can be rapidly developed for distribution and use in pandemic regions. Here, we report a pipeline for the rapid design, assembly, and validation of cell-free, paper-based sensors for the detection of the Zika virus RNA genome. By linking isothermal RNA amplification to toehold switch RNA sensors, we detect clinically relevant concentrations of Zika virus sequences and demonstrate specificity against closely related Dengue virus sequences. When coupled with a novel CRISPR/Cas9-based module, our sensors can discriminate between viral strains with single-base resolution. We successfully demonstrate a simple, field-ready sample-processing workflow and detect Zika virus from the plasma of a viremic macaque. Our freeze-dried biomolecular platform resolves important practical limitations to the deployment of molecular diagnostics in the field and demonstrates how synthetic biology can be used to develop diagnostic tools for confronting global health crises. PAPERCLIP.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Molecular biology, Virus, Genome, RNA, RNA virus, Influenza


Genomic data provide an excellent resource to improve understanding of retrovirus evolution and the complex relationships among viruses and their hosts. In conjunction with broad-scale in silico screening of vertebrate genomes, this resource offers an opportunity to complement data on the evolution and frequency of past retroviral spread and so evaluate future risks and limitations for horizontal transmission between different host species. Here, we develop a methodology for extracting phylogenetic signal from large endogenous retrovirus (ERV) datasets by collapsing information to facilitate broad-scale phylogenomics across a wide sample of hosts. Starting with nearly 90,000 ERVs from 60 vertebrate host genomes, we construct phylogenetic hypotheses and draw inferences regarding the designation, host distribution, origin, and transmission of the Gammaretrovirus genus and associated class I ERVs. Our results uncover remarkable depths in retroviral sequence diversity, supported within a phylogenetic context. This finding suggests that current infectious exogenous retrovirus diversity may be underestimated, adding credence to the possibility that many additional exogenous retroviruses may remain to be discovered in vertebrate taxa. We demonstrate a history of frequent horizontal interorder transmissions from a rodent reservoir and suggest that rats may have acted as important overlooked facilitators of gammaretrovirus spread across diverse mammalian hosts. Together, these results demonstrate the promise of the methodology used here to analyze large ERV datasets and improve understanding of retroviral evolution and diversity for utilization in wider applications.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Species, RNA virus, Phylogenetics, Retrovirus, Retroviruses, Feline leukemia virus


Ebola virus outbreaks, such as the 2014 Makona epidemic in West Africa, are episodic and deadly. Filovirus antivirals are currently not clinically available. Our findings suggest interferon gamma, an FDA-approved drug, may serve as a novel and effective prophylactic or treatment option. Using mouse-adapted Ebola virus, we found that murine interferon gamma administered 24 hours before or after infection robustly protects lethally-challenged mice and reduces morbidity and serum viral titers. Furthermore, we demonstrated that interferon gamma profoundly inhibits Ebola virus infection of macrophages, an early cellular target of infection. As early as six hours following in vitro infection, Ebola virus RNA levels in interferon gamma-treated macrophages were lower than in infected, untreated cells. Addition of the protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide, to interferon gamma-treated macrophages did not further reduce viral RNA levels, suggesting that interferon gamma blocks life cycle events that require protein synthesis such as virus replication. Microarray studies with interferon gamma-treated human macrophages identified more than 160 interferon-stimulated genes. Ectopic expression of a select group of these genes inhibited Ebola virus infection. These studies provide new potential avenues for antiviral targeting as these genes that have not previously appreciated to inhibit negative strand RNA viruses and specifically Ebola virus infection. As treatment of interferon gamma robustly protects mice from lethal Ebola virus infection, we propose that interferon gamma should be further evaluated for its efficacy as a prophylactic and/or therapeutic strategy against filoviruses. Use of this FDA-approved drug could rapidly be deployed during future outbreaks.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Virus, Genome, RNA, RNA virus, Influenza


Yellow fever virus RNA is usually detected in blood of infected humans. We detected virus RNA in urine and semen samples from a convalescent patient. A complete virus genome was sequenced for an isolate from a urine sample. This virus had a South American I genotype and unique synapomorphic changes.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Virus, Genome, RNA, Yellow fever, RNA virus


Positive-stranded RNA viruses, like many other viruses, have evolved to exploit the host cellular machinery to their own advantage. In eukaryotic cells, the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) that serves as the major intracellular pathway for protein degradation and modification plays a crucial role in the regulation of many fundamental cellular functions. A growing amount of evidence has suggested that the UPS can be utilized by positive-sense RNA viruses. The UPS eliminates excess viral proteins that prevent viral replication and modulates the function of viral proteins through post-translational modification mediated by ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like proteins. This review will discuss the current understanding of how positive RNA viruses have evolved various mechanisms to usurp the host UPS to modulate the function and stability of viral proteins. In addition to the pro-viral function, UPS-mediated viral protein degradation may also constitute a host defense process against some positive-stranded RNA viral infections. This issue will also be discussed in the current review. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Virus, Genome, RNA, Cell biology, RNA virus, Virology


Coronaviruses are single stranded, positive sense RNA viruses, which induce the rearrangement of cellular membranes upon infection of a host cell. This provides the virus with a platform for the assembly of viral replication complexes, improving efficiency of RNA synthesis. The membranes observed in coronavirus infected cells include double membrane vesicles. By nature of their double membrane, these vesicles resemble cellular autophagosomes, generated during the cellular autophagy pathway. In addition, coronavirus infection has been demonstrated to induce autophagy. Here we review current knowledge of coronavirus induced membrane rearrangements and the involvement of autophagy or autophagy protein microtubule associated protein 1B light chain 3 (LC3) in coronavirus replication.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Virus, RNA, Cell membrane, Organelle, RNA virus


Our understanding of the diversity and evolution of vertebrate RNA viruses is largely limited to those found in mammalian and avian hosts and associated with overt disease. Here, using a large-scale meta-transcriptomic approach, we discover 214 vertebrate-associated viruses in reptiles, amphibians, lungfish, ray-finned fish, cartilaginous fish and jawless fish. The newly discovered viruses appear in every family or genus of RNA virus associated with vertebrate infection, including those containing human pathogens such as influenza virus, the Arenaviridae and Filoviridae families, and have branching orders that broadly reflected the phylogenetic history of their hosts. We establish a long evolutionary history for most groups of vertebrate RNA virus, and support this by evaluating evolutionary timescales using dated orthologous endogenous virus elements. We also identify new vertebrate-specific RNA viruses and genome architectures, and re-evaluate the evolution of vector-borne RNA viruses. In summary, this study reveals diverse virus-host associations across the entire evolutionary history of the vertebrates.

Concepts: Bacteria, Evolution, Virus, Genome, Species, RNA virus, Influenza, Chordate