A Human Torque Teno Virus Encodes a MicroRNA That Inhibits Interferon Signaling




Kincaid, Rodney P.
Burke, James M.
Cox, Jennifer C.
de Villiers, Ethel-Michele
Sullivan, Christopher S.

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PLOS Pathogens


Torque teno viruses (TTVs) are a group of viruses with small, circular DNA genomes. Members of this family are thought to ubiquitously infect humans, although causal disease associations are currently lacking. At present, there is no understanding of how infection with this diverse group of viruses is so prevalent. Using a combined computational and synthetic approach, we predict and identify miRNA-coding regions in diverse human TTVs and provide evidence for TTV miRNA production in vivo. The TTV miRNAs are transcribed by RNA polymerase II, processed by Drosha and Dicer, and are active in RISC. A TTV mutant defective for miRNA production replicates as well as wild type virus genome; demonstrating that the TTV miRNA is dispensable for genome replication in a cell culture model. We demonstrate that a recombinant TTV genome is capable of expressing an exogenous miRNA, indicating the potential utility of TTV as a small RNA vector. Gene expression profiling of host cells identifies N-myc (and STAT) interactor (NMI) as a target of a TTV miRNA. NMI transcripts are directly regulated through a binding site in the 3′UTR. SiRNA knockdown of NMI contributes to a decreased response to interferon signaling. Consistent with this, we show that a TTV miRNA mediates a decreased response to IFN and increased cellular proliferation in the presence of IFN. Thus, we add Annelloviridae to the growing list of virus families that encode miRNAs, and suggest that miRNA-mediated immune evasion can contribute to the pervasiveness associated with some of these viruses.


Rodney P. Kincaid, James M. Burke, Jennifer C. Cox, Christopher S. Sullivan, The University of Texas at Austin, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Austin, Texas, United States of America
Ethel-Michele de Villiers, Division for the Characterization of Tumorviruses, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg, Germany

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Kincaid RP, Burke JM, Cox JC, de Villiers E-M, Sullivan CS (2013) A Human Torque Teno Virus Encodes a MicroRNA That Inhibits Interferon Signaling. PLoS Pathog 9(12): e1003818. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003818