Direct RNA sequencing on nanopore arrays redefines the transcriptional complexity of a viral pathogen
Characterizing complex viral transcriptomes by conventional RNA sequencing approaches is complicated by high gene density, overlapping reading frames, and complex splicing patterns. Direct RNA sequencing (direct RNA-seq) using nanopore arrays offers an exciting alternative whereby individual polyadenylated RNAs are sequenced directly, without the recoding and amplification biases inherent to other sequencing methodologies. Here we use direct RNA-seq to profile the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) transcriptome during productive infection of primary cells. We show how direct RNA-seq data can be used to define transcription initiation and RNA cleavage sites associated with all polyadenylatedÂ viral RNAs and demonstrate that low level read-through transcription produces a novel class of chimeric HSV-1 transcripts, including a functional mRNA encoding a fusion of the viral E3 ubiquitin ligase ICP0 and viral membrane glycoprotein L. Thus, direct RNA-seq offers a powerful method to characterize the changing transcriptional landscape of viruses with complex genomes.
A spliced latency-associated VZV transcript maps antisense to the viral transactivator gene 61
Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), an alphaherpesvirus, establishes lifelong latent infection in the neurons of >90% humans worldwide, reactivating in one-third to cause shingles, debilitating pain and stroke. How VZV maintains latency remains unclear. Here, using ultra-deep virus-enriched RNA sequencing of latently infected human trigeminal ganglia (TG), we demonstrate the consistent expression of a spliced VZV mRNA, antisense to VZV open reading frame 61 (ORF61). The spliced VZV latency-associated transcript (VLT) is expressed in human TG neurons and encodes a protein with late kinetics in productively infected cells in vitro and in shingles skin lesions. Whereas multiple alternatively spliced VLT isoforms (VLTly) are expressed during lytic infection, a single unique VLT isoform, which specifically suppresses ORF61 gene expression in co-transfected cells, predominates in latently VZV-infected human TG. The discovery of VLT links VZV with the other better characterized human and animal neurotropic alphaherpesviruses and provides insights into VZV latency.
RNA m6A modification enzymes shape innate responses to DNA by regulating interferon Î²
Modification of mRNA by N6-adenosine methylation (m6A) on internal bases influences gene expression in eukaryotes. How the dynamic genome-wide landscape of m6A-modified mRNAs impacts virus infection and host immune responses remains poorly understood. Here, we show that type I interferon (IFN) production triggered by dsDNA or human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is controlled by the cellular m6A methyltrasferase subunit METTL14 and ALKBH5 demethylase. While METTL14 depletion reduced virus reproduction and stimulated dsDNA- or HCMV-induced IFNB1 mRNA accumulation, ALKBH5 depletion had the opposite effect. Depleting METTL14 increased both nascent IFNB1 mRNA production and stability in response to dsDNA. In contrast, ALKBH5 depletion reduced nascent IFNB1 mRNA production without detectably influencing IFN1B mRNA decay. Genome-wide transcriptome profiling following ALKBH5 depletion identified differentially expressed genes regulating antiviral immune responses, while METTL14 depletion altered pathways impacting metabolic reprogramming, stress responses, and aging. Finally, we determined that IFNB1 mRNA was m6A-modified within both the coding sequence and the 3' untranslated region (UTR). This establishes that the host m6A modification machinery controls IFNÎ² production triggered by HCMV or dsDNA. Moreover, it demonstrates that responses to nonmicrobial dsDNA in uninfected cells, which shape host immunity and contribute to autoimmune disease, are regulated by enzymes controlling m6A epitranscriptomic changes.
High Viral Diversity and Mixed Infections in Cerebral Spinal Fluid From Cases of Varicella Zoster Virus Encephalitis
Background/UNASSIGNED:Varicella zoster virus (VZV) may cause encephalitis, both with and without rash. Here we investigate whether viruses recovered from the central nervous system (CNS; encephalitis or meningitis) differ genetically from those recovered from non-CNS samples. Methods/UNASSIGNED:Enrichment-based deep sequencing of 45 VZV genomes from cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), plasma, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and vesicles was carried out with samples collected from 34 patients with and without VZV infection of the CNS. Results/UNASSIGNED:Viral sequences from multiple sites in the same patient were identical at the consensus level. Virus from vesicle fluid and CSF in cases of meningitis showed low-level diversity. By contrast, plasma, BAL, and encephalitis had higher numbers of variant alleles. Two CSF-encephalitis samples had high genetic diversity, with variant frequency patterns typical of mixed infections with different clades. Conclusions/UNASSIGNED:Low viral genetic diversity in vesicle fluid is compatible with previous observations that VZV skin lesions arise from single or low numbers of virions. A similar result was observed in VZV from cases of VZV meningitis, a generally self-limiting infection. CSF from cases of encephalitis had higher diversity with evidence for mixed clade infections in 2 cases. We hypothesize that reactivation from multiple neurons may contribute to the pathogenesis of VZV encephalitis.
Going the distance: optimizing RNA-Seq strategies for transcriptomic analysis of complex viral genomes
Transcriptome profiling has become routine in studies of many biological processes. However, favored approaches such as short-read Illumina RNA sequencing are giving way to long-read sequencing platforms better suited to interrogating the complex transcriptomes typical of many RNA and DNA viruses. Here, we provide a guide - tailored to molecular virologists - to the ins-and-outs of viral transcriptome sequencing and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the major RNA sequencing technologies as tools to analyze the abundance and diversity of viral transcripts made during infection.
Molecular Aspects of Varicella-Zoster Virus Latency
Primary varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection causes varicella (chickenpox) and the establishment of a lifelong latent infection in ganglionic neurons. VZV reactivates in about one-third of infected individuals to cause herpes zoster, often accompanied by neurological complications. The restricted host range of VZV and, until recently, a lack of suitable in vitro models have seriously hampered molecular studies of VZV latency. Nevertheless, recent technological advances facilitated a series of exciting studies that resulted in the discovery of a VZV latency-associated transcript (VLT) and provide novel insights into our understanding of VZV latency and factors that may initiate reactivation. Deducing the function(s) of VLT and the molecular mechanisms involved should now be considered a priority to improve our understanding of factors that govern VZV latency and reactivation. In this review, we summarize the implications of recent discoveries in the VZV latency field from both a virus and host perspective and provide a roadmap for future studies.
Evolution of cocirculating varicella-zoster virus genotypes during a chickenpox outbreak in Guinea-Bissau
UNLABELLED:Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), a double-stranded DNA alphaherpesvirus, is associated with seasonal outbreaks of varicella in nonimmunized populations. Little is known about whether these outbreaks are associated with a single or multiple viral genotypes and whether new mutations rapidly accumulate during transmission. Here, we take advantage of a well-characterized population cohort in Guinea-Bissau and produce a unique set of 23 full-length genome sequences, collected over 7 months from eight households. Comparative sequence analysis reveals that four distinct genotypes cocirculated among the population, three of which were present during the first week of the outbreak, although no patients were coinfected, which indicates that exposure to infectious virus from multiple sources is common during VZV outbreaks. Transmission of VZV was associated with length polymorphisms in the R1 repeat region and the origin of DNA replication. In two cases, these were associated with the formation of distinct lineages and point to the possible coevolution of these loci, despite the lack of any known functional link in VZV or related herpesviruses. We show that these and all other sequenced clade 5 viruses possess a distinct R1 repeat motif that increases the acidity of an ORF11p protein domain and postulate that this has either arisen or been lost following divergence of the major clades. Thus, sequencing of whole VZV genomes collected during an outbreak has provided novel insights into VZV biology, transmission patterns, and (recent) natural history. IMPORTANCE/OBJECTIVE:VZV is a highly infectious virus and the causative agent of chickenpox and shingles, the latter being particularly associated with the risk of painful complications. Seasonal outbreaks of chickenpox are very common among young children, yet little is known about the dynamics of the virus during person-to-person to transmission or whether multiple distinct viruses seed and/or cocirculate during an outbreak. In this study, we have sequenced chickenpox viruses from an outbreak in Guinea-Bissau that are supported by detailed epidemiological data. Our data show that multiple different virus strains seeded and were maintained throughout the 6-month outbreak period and that viruses transmitted between individuals accumulated new mutations in specific genomic regions. Of particular interest is the potential coevolution of two distinct parts of the genomes and our calculations of the rate of viral mutation, both of which increase our understanding of how VZV evolves over short periods of time in human populations.
The architecture of the simian varicella virus transcriptome
Primary infection with varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes varicella and the establishment of lifelong latency in sensory ganglion neurons. In one-third of infected individuals VZV reactivates from latency to cause herpes zoster, often complicated by difficult-to-treat chronic pain. Experimental infection of non-human primates with simian varicella virus (SVV) recapitulates most features of human VZV disease, thereby providing the opportunity to study the pathogenesis of varicella and herpes zoster in vivo. However, compared to VZV, the transcriptome and the full coding potential of SVV remains incompletely understood. Here, we performed direct long-read RNA sequencing to annotate the SVV transcriptome in lytically SVV-infected African green monkey (AGM) and rhesus macaque (RM) kidney epithelial cells. We refined structures of canonical SVV transcripts and uncovered numerous RNA isoforms, splicing events, fusion transcripts and non-coding RNAs, mostly unique to SVV. We verified the expression of canonical and newly identified SVV transcripts in vivo, using lung samples from acutely SVV-infected cynomolgus macaques. Expression of selected transcript isoforms, including those located in the unique left-end of the SVV genome, was confirmed by reverse transcription PCR. Finally, we performed detailed characterization of the SVV homologue of the VZV latency-associated transcript (VLT), located antisense to ORF61. Analogous to VZV VLT, SVV VLT is multiply spliced and numerous isoforms are generated using alternative transcription start sites and extensive splicing. Conversely, low level expression of a single spliced SVV VLT isoform defines in vivo latency. Notably, the genomic location of VLT core exons is highly conserved between SVV and VZV. This work thus highlights the complexity of lytic SVV gene expression and provides new insights into the molecular biology underlying lytic and latent SVV infection. The identification of the SVV VLT homolog further underlines the value of the SVV non-human primate model to develop new strategies for prevention of herpes zoster.
ICTV Virus Taxonomy Profile: Herpesviridae 2021
Members of the family Herpesviridae have enveloped, spherical virions with characteristic complex structures consisting of symmetrical and non-symmetrical components. The linear, double-stranded DNA genomes of 125-241 kbp contain 70-170 genes, of which 43 have been inherited from an ancestral herpesvirus. In general, herpesviruses have coevolved with and are highly adapted to their hosts, which comprise many mammalian, avian and reptilian species. Following primary infection, they are able to establish lifelong latent infection, during which there is limited viral gene expression. Severe disease is usually observed only in the foetus, the very young, the immunocompromised or following infection of an alternative host. This is a summary of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) Report on the family Herpesviridae, which is available at ictv.global/report/herpesviridae.
Varicella-Zoster Virus-Genetics, Molecular Evolution and Recombination
This chapter first details the structure, organization and coding content of the VZV genome to provide a foundation on which the molecular evolution of the virus can be projected. We subsequently describe the evolution of molecular profiling approaches from restriction fragment length polymorphisms to single nucleotide polymorphism profiling to modern day high-throughput sequencing approaches. We describe how the application of these methodologies led to our current model of VZV phylogeograpy including the number and structure of geographic clades and the role of recombination in reshaping these.