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RNA interference identifies domesticated viral genes involved in assembly and trafficking of virus-derived particles in ichneumonid wasps

Abstract : There are many documented examples of viral genes retained in the genomes of multicellular organisms that may in some cases bring new beneficial functions to the receivers. The ability of certain ichneumonid parasitic wasps to produce virus-derived particles, the so-called ichnoviruses (IVs), not only results from the capture and domestication of single viral genes but of almost entire ancestral virus genome(s). Indeed, following integration into wasp chromosomal DNA, the putative and still undetermined IV ancestor(s) evolved into encoding a 'virulence gene delivery vehicle' that is now required for successful infestation of wasp hosts. Several putative viral genes, which are clustered in distinct regions of wasp genomes referred to as IVSPERs (Ichnovirus Structural Protein Encoding Regions), have been assumed to be involved in virus-derived particles morphogenesis, but this question has not been previously functionally addressed. In the present study, we have successfully combined RNA interference and transmission electron microscopy to specifically identify IVSPER genes that are responsible for the morphogenesis and trafficking of the virus-derived particles in ovarian cells of the ichneumonid wasp Hyposoter didymator. We suggest that ancestral viral genes retained within the genomes of certain ichneumonid parasitoids possess conserved functions which were domesticated for the purpose of assembling viral vectors for the delivery of virulence genes to parasitized host animals. Author summary Thousands of parasitic wasp from the ichneumonid family rely on virus-derived particles, named Ichnoviruses (Polydnavirus family), to ensure their successful development. The particles are produced in a specialized ovarian tissue of the female wasp named calyx. Virions are assembled in the calyx cell nuclei and stored in the oviduct before being transferred to the parasitoid host upon female wasp oviposition. Genes encoding proteins associated with the particles had been previously identified. These genes are localized in clusters of genes in the wasp genome (named IVSPER for "Ichnovirus structural proteins encoding regions"), they are specifically transcribed in the calyx but not encapsidated. IVSPER genes were thus hypothesized to derive from the integration of a virus, however still undetermined. Indeed, none of the identified genes had similarity to known sequence, making in addition unclear their function in particle production. In this work, we use the RNA interference technology to decipher the function of six IVSPER genes from the ichneumonid wasp Hyposoter didymator. Thanks to this approach, combined with transmission electron microscopy, we show that the studied IVSPER genes are required in different steps of particle morphogenesis and trafficking, and that their functions are those expected of a typical virus.
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Ange Lorenzi, Marc Ravallec, Magali Eychenne, Véronique Jouan, Stéphanie Robin, et al.. RNA interference identifies domesticated viral genes involved in assembly and trafficking of virus-derived particles in ichneumonid wasps. PLoS Pathogens, Public Library of Science, 2019, 15 (12), pp.e1008210. ⟨10.1371/journal.ppat.1008210⟩. ⟨hal-02483831⟩



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