Publications

Mechanism and structural diversity of exoribonuclease-resistant RNA structures in flaviviral RNAs

Macfadden, Andrea; ODonoghue, Zoe; Silva, Patricia A.G.C.; Chapman, Erich G.; Olsthoorn, René C.; Sterken, Mark G.; Pijlman, Gorben P.; Bredenbeek, Peter J.; Kieft, Jeffrey S.

Summary

Flaviviruses such as Yellow fever, Dengue, West Nile, and Zika generate disease-linked viral noncoding RNAs called subgenomic flavivirus RNAs. Subgenomic flavivirus RNAs result when the 53 progression of cellular exoribonuclease Xrn1 is blocked by RNA elements called Xrn1-resistant RNAs located within the viral genomes 3-untranslated region that operate without protein co-factors. Here, we show that Xrn1-resistant RNAs can halt diverse exoribonucleases, revealing a mechanism in which they act as general mechanical blocks that brace against an enzymes surface, presenting an unfolding problem that confounds further enzyme progression. Further, we directly demonstrate that Xrn1-resistant RNAs exist in a diverse set of flaviviruses, including some specific to insects or with no known arthropod vector. These Xrn1-resistant RNAs comprise two secondary structural classes that mirror previously reported phylogenic analysis. Our discoveries have implications for the evolution of exoribonuclease resistance, the use of Xrn1-resistant RNAs in synthetic biology, and the development of new therapies.