RNA interference-based antiviral immune response against the salivary gland hypertrophy virus in Glossina pallidipes

Irene K. Meki, Henry M. Kariithi, Andrew G. Parker, Marc J.B. Vreysen, Vera I.D. Ros, Just M. Vlak, Monique M. van Oers, Adly M.M. Abd-Alla*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Glossina pallidipes salivary gland hypertrophy virus (GpSGHV; Hytrosaviridae) is a non-occluded dsDNA virus that specifically infects the adult stages of the hematophagous tsetse flies (Glossina species, Diptera: Glossinidae). GpSGHV infections are usually asymptomatic, but unknown factors can result to a switch to acute symptomatic infection, which is characterized by the salivary gland hypertrophy (SGH) syndrome associated with decreased fecundity that can ultimately lead to a colony collapse. It is uncertain how GpSGHV is maintained amongst Glossina spp. populations but RNA interference (RNAi) machinery, a conserved antiviral defense in insects, is hypothesized to be amongst the host's mechanisms to maintain the GpSGHV in asymptomatic (persistent or latent) infection state. Here, we investigated the involvement of RNAi during GpSGHV infections by comparing the expression of three key RNAi machinery genes, Dicer (DCR), Argonaute (AGO) and Drosha, in artificially virus injected, asymptomatic and symptomatic infected G. pallidipes flies compared to PBS injected (controls) individuals. We further assessed the impact of AGO2 knockdown on virus infection by RT-qPCR quantification of four selected GpSGHV genes, i.e. odv-e66, dnapol, maltodextrin glycosyltransferase (a tegument gene) and SGHV091 (a capsid gene). RESULTS: We show that in response to hemocoelic injections of GpSGHV into G. pallidipes flies, increased virus replication was accompanied by significant upregulation of the expression of three RNAi key genes; AGO1, AGO2 and DCR2, and a moderate increase in the expression of Drosha post injection compared to the PBS-injected controls. Furthermore, compared to asymptomatically infected individuals, symptomatic flies showed significant downregulation of AGO1, AGO2 and Drosha, but a moderate increase in the expression of DCR2. Compared to the controls, knockdown of AGO2 did not have a significant impact on virus infection in the flies as evidenced by unaltered transcript levels of the selected GpSGHV genes. CONCLUSION: The upregulation of the expression of the RNAi genes implicate involvement of this machinery in controlling GpSGHV infections and the establishment of symptomatic GpSGHV infections in Glossina. These findings provide a strategic foundation to understand GpSGHV infections and to control latent (asymptomatic) infections in Glossina spp. and thereby control SGHVs in insect production facilities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170
Pages (from-to)257-270
JournalBMC Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2018


  • Covert infections
  • Glossinidae
  • GpSGHV
  • RNAi
  • Sterile insect technique
  • Symptomatic and asymptomatic infection
  • Tsetse


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