Mosquito Small RNA Responses to West Nile and Insect-Specific Virus Infections in Aedes and Culex Mosquito Cells

Giel P. Göertz, Pascal Miesen, Gijs J. Overheul, Ronald P. van Rij, Monique M. van Oers, Gorben P. Pijlman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Small RNA mediated responses are essential for antiviral defence in mosquitoes, however, they appear to differ per virus-vector combination. To further investigate the diversity of small RNA responses against viruses in mosquitoes, we applied a small RNA deep sequencing approach on five mosquito cell lines: Culex tarsalis CT cells, Aedes albopictus U4.4 and C6/36 cells, Ae. aegypti Aag2 cells (cleared from cell fusing agent virus and Culex Y virus (CYV) by repetitive dsRNA transfections) and Ae. pseudoscutellaris AP-61 cells. De novo assembly of small RNAs revealed the presence of Phasi Charoen-like virus (PCLV), Calbertado virus, Flock House virus and a novel narnavirus in CT cells, CYV in U4.4 cells, and PCLV in Aag2 cells, whereas no insect-specific viruses (ISVs) were detected in C6/36 and AP-61 cells. Next, we investigated the small RNA responses to the identified ISVs and to acute infection with the arthropod-borne West Nile virus (WNV). We demonstrate that AP-61 and C6/36 cells do not produce siRNAs to WNV infection, suggesting that AP-61, like C6/36, are Dicer-2 deficient. CT cells produced a strong siRNA response to the persistent ISVs and acute WNV infection. Interestingly, CT cells also produced viral PIWI-interacting (pi)RNAs to PCLV, but not to WNV or any of the other ISVs. In contrast, in U4.4 and Aag2 cells, WNV siRNAs, and pi-like RNAs without typical ping-pong piRNA signature were observed, while this signature was present in PCLV piRNAs in Aag2 cells. Together, our results demonstrate that mosquito small RNA responses are strongly dependent on both the mosquito cell type and/or the mosquito species and family of the infecting virus.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2019


  • de novo assembly
  • insect-specific viruses
  • mosquito cells
  • next-generation sequencing
  • PIWI-interacting RNAs
  • RNAi
  • small RNA
  • small-interfering RNAs
  • virus discovery
  • West Nile virus


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