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Evolutionary selection of pestivirus variants with altered or no microRNA dependency

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


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Host microRNA (miRNA) dependency is a hallmark of the human pathogen hepatitis C virus (HCV) and was also described for the related pestiviruses, which are important livestock pathogens. The liver-specific miR-122 binds within the HCV 5' untranslated region (UTR), whereas the broadly expressed let-7 and miR-17 families bind two sites (S1 and S2, respectively) in the pestiviral 3' UTR. Here, we dissected the mechanism of miRNA dependency of the pestivirus bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV). Argonaute 2 (AGO2) and miR-17 binding were essential for viral replication, whereas let-7 binding was mainly required for full translational efficiency. Furthermore, using seed site randomized genomes and evolutionary selection experiments, we found that tropism could be redirected to different miRNAs. AGO cross-linking and immunoprecipitation (CLIP) experiments and miRNA antagonism demonstrated that these alternative variants bound and depended on the corresponding miRNAs. Interestingly, we also identified miRNA-independent variants that were obtained through acquisition of compensatory mutations near the genomic 3' terminus. Rescue experiments demonstrated that miRNA binding and 3' mutagenesis contribute to replication through mutually exclusive mechanisms. Altogether, our findings suggest that pestiviruses, although capable of miRNA-independent replication, took advantage of miRNAs as essential host factors, suggesting a favorable path during evolutionary adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)5555-5571
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2020

ID: 59831517