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Characterization of extracellular RNA-signals and their role in antiviral immunity in insects

Regulatory RNAs play important roles in the control of gene expression. A major scientific milestone in the study of regulatory small (s)RNAs was the discovery of RNA interference (RNAi), which resulted in the Nobel Prize for Fire and Mello (2006). This process is triggered by double stranded RNA and results in sequence-specific post-transcriptional gene silencing. In insects, the most speciose class of animals, RNAi constitutes the main antiviral immune response by degrading viral transcripts. In addition, this mechanism is widely used for reverse genetic studies and it offers novel opportunities for applications in pest control. While many regulatory sRNA pathway components are identified in insects, the molecular and cellular mechanisms of systemic spreading of the RNAsignal and silencing, as well as their role in systemic antiviral immunity, are not fully understood. Recently, we have observed that cell-free insect haemolymph and medium of cultured-cells contain high levels of extracellular sRNAs. Furthermore, we have observed that insect extracellular vesicles can deliver an RNAi-signal to recipient cells, spreading the silencing effect. Since sRNAs are well known for their regulatory functions, this points towards the existence of intercellular RNA-based signalling processes. The current project aims at identifying extracellular sRNAs from insect cell-free fluids and at investigating their role in systemic RNAi and antiviral immunity in this group of animals.

Date:1 Jan 2019 →  31 Dec 2022
Keywords:Molecular biology
Disciplines:Invertebrate biology