Using RNA interference to develop dengue virus resistance in genetically modified Aedes aegypti.
Travanty EA., Adelman ZN., Franz AWE., Keene KM., Beaty BJ., Blair CD., James AA., Olson KE.
Diseases caused by arthropod-borne viruses are significant public health problems, and novel methods are needed to control pathogen transmission. We hypothesize that genetic manipulation of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can profoundly and permanently reduce vector competence and subsequent transmission of dengue viruses (DENV) to human hosts. We have identified RNA interference (RNAi) as a potential anti-viral, intracellular pathway in the vector that can be triggered by expression of virus-specific, double stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) to reduce vector competence to DENV. We identified DENV-derived RNA segments using recombinant Sindbis viruses to trigger RNAi, that when expressed in mosquitoes ablate homologous DENV replication and transmission. We also demonstrated that heritable expression of DENV-derived dsRNA in cultured mosquito cells can silence virus replication. We now have developed a number of transgenic mosquito lines that transcribe the effector dsRNA from constitutive promoters such as immediate early 1 (baculovirus) and polyubiquitin (Drosophila melanogaster). We have detected DENV-specific small interfering RNAs, the hallmark of RNAi, in at least one of these lines. Surprisingly, none of these lines expressed dsRNA in relevant tissues (e.g., midguts) that will ultimately affect transmission. A major challenge now is to express the effector dsRNA from tissue-specific promoters to allow RNAi to silence virus replication at critical sites in the vector such as midguts and salivary glands. If successful, this strategy has the advantage of harnessing a naturally occurring vector response to block DENV infection in a mosquito vector and profoundly affect virus transmission.