Katsuma S.†*, Kawamoto M.†, Shoji K.†, Aizawa T.†, Kiuchi T., Izumi N., Ogawa M., Mashiko T., Kawasaki H., Sugano S., Tomari Y., Suzuki Y., and Iwanaga M.*
(†These authors contributed equally to this work, *co-corresponding authors)


Bombyx mori macula-like virus (BmMLV) is a positive, single-stranded insect RNA virus that is closely related to plant maculaviruses. BmMLV is currently characterized as an unclassified maculavirus. BmMLV accumulates at extremely high levels in cell lines derived from the silkworm, Bombyx mori, but it does not lead to lethality and establishes persistent infections. It is unknown how this insect maculavirus replicates and establishes persistent infections in insect cells. Here, we showed that BmMLV p15, which is located on a subgenomic fragment and is not found in plant maculaviruses, is highly expressed in BmMLV-infected silkworm cells and that p15 protein is required to establish BmMLV infections in silkworm cells. We also showed that two distinct small RNA-mediated pathways maintain BmMLV levels in BmMLV-infected silkworm cells, thereby allowing the virus to establish persistent infection. Virus-derived siRNAs and piRNAs were both produced as the infection progressed. Knockdown experiments demonstrated that the exogenous RNAi pathway alone or RNAi and piRNA pathways function cooperatively to silence BmMLV RNA and that both pathways are important for normal growth of BmMLV-infected silkworm cells. On the basis of our study, we propose a mechanism of how a plant virus-like insect virus can establish persistent infections in insect cells.

Paper Information

: DNA Research
: 10.1093/dnares/dsx056