Identification of novel, highly expressed retroviral microRNAs in cells infected by bovine foamy virus.
UNLABELLED: While numerous viral microRNAs (miRNAs) expressed by DNA viruses, especially herpesvirus family members, have been reported, there have been very few reports of miRNAs derived from RNA viruses. Here we describe three miRNAs expressed by bovine foamy virus (BFV), a member of the spumavirus subfamily of retroviruses, in both BFV-infected cultured cells and BFV-infected cattle. All three viral miRNAs are initially expressed in the form of an ∼ 122-nucleotide (nt) pri-miRNA, encoded within the BFV long terminal repeat U3 region, that is subsequently cleaved to generate two pre-miRNAs that are then processed to yield three distinct, biologically active miRNAs. The BFV pri-miRNA is transcribed by RNA polymerase III, and the three resultant mature miRNAs were found to contribute a remarkable ∼ 70% of all miRNAs expressed in BFV-infected cells. These data document the second example of a retrovirus that is able to express viral miRNAs by using embedded proviral RNA polymerase III promoters. IMPORTANCE: Foamy viruses are a ubiquitous family of nonpathogenic retroviruses that have potential as gene therapy vectors in humans. Here we demonstrate that bovine foamy virus (BFV) expresses high levels of three viral microRNAs (miRNAs) in BFV-infected cells in culture and also in infected cattle. The BFV miRNAs are unusual in that they are initially transcribed by RNA polymerase III as a single, ∼ 122-nt pri-miRNA that is subsequently processed to release three fully functional miRNAs. The observation that BFV, a foamy virus, is able to express viral miRNAs in infected cells adds to emerging evidence that miRNA expression is a common, albeit clearly not universal, property of retroviruses and suggests that these miRNAs may exert a significant effect on viral replication in vivo.
Whisnant, AW; Kehl, T; Bao, Q; Materniak, M; Kuzmak, J; Löchelt, M; Cullen, BR
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