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J Virol. 2018 Apr 27;92(10). pii: e00337-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00337-18. Print 2018 May 15.

Experimental Analysis of Mimivirus Translation Initiation Factor 4a Reveals Its Importance in Viral Protein Translation during Infection of Acanthamoeba polyphaga.

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Unité de Recherche sur les Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales Emergentes (URMITE), Aix-Marseille Université, UM63 IRD 198, IHU-Méditerranée Infection, Marseille, France.
Unité de Recherche sur les Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales Emergentes (URMITE), Aix-Marseille Université, UM63 IRD 198, IHU-Méditerranée Infection, Marseille, France


The Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus is the first giant virus ever described, with a 1.2-Mb genome which encodes 979 proteins, including central components of the translation apparatus. One of these proteins, R458, was predicted to initiate translation, although its specific role remains unknown. We silenced the R458 gene using small interfering RNA (siRNA) and compared levels of viral fitness and protein expression in silenced versus wild-type mimivirus. Silencing decreased the growth rate, but viral particle production at the end of the viral cycle was unaffected. A comparative proteomic approach using two-dimensional difference-in-gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE) revealed deregulation of the expression of 32 proteins in silenced mimivirus, which were defined as up- or downregulated. Besides revealing proteins with unknown functions, silencing R458 also revealed deregulation in proteins associated with viral particle structures, transcriptional machinery, oxidative pathways, modification of proteins/lipids, and DNA topology/repair. Most of these proteins belong to genes transcribed at the end of the viral cycle. Overall, our data suggest that the R458 protein regulates the expression of mimivirus proteins and, thus, that mimivirus translational proteins may not be strictly redundant in relation to those from the amoeba host. As is the case for eukaryotic initiation factor 4a (eIF4a), the R458 protein is the prototypical member of the ATP-dependent DEAD box RNA helicase mechanism. We suggest that the R458 protein is required to unwind the secondary structures at the 5' ends of mRNAs and to bind the mRNA to the ribosome, making it possible to scan for the start codon. These data are the first experimental evidence of mimivirus translation-related genes, predicted to initiate protein biosynthesis.IMPORTANCE The presence in the genome of a mimivirus of genes coding for many translational processes, with the exception of ribosome constituents, has been the subject of debate since its discovery in 2003. In this work, we focused on the R458 mimivirus gene, predicted to initiate protein biosynthesis. After silencing was performed, we observed that it has no major effect on mimivirus multiplication but that it affects protein expression and fitness. This suggests that it is effectively used by mimivirus during its developmental cycle. Until large-scale genetic manipulation of giant viruses becomes possible, the silencing strategy used here on mimivirus translation-related factors will open the way to understanding the functions of these translational genes.


R458; gene silencing; giant virus; mimivirus; protein expression; translation

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