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Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) processed from double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) of virus origins mediate potent antiviral defense through a process referred to as RNA interference (RNAi) or RNA silencing in diverse organisms. In the simple invertebrate Caenorhabditis elegans, the RNAi process is initiated by a single Dicer, which partners with the dsRNA binding protein RDE-4 to process dsRNA into viral siRNAs (viRNAs). Notably, in C. elegans this RNA-directed viral immunity (RDVI) also requires a number of worm-specific genes for its full antiviral potential. One such gene is rsd-2 (RNAi spreading defective 2), which was implicated in RDVI in our previous studies. In the current study, we first established an antiviral role by showing that rsd-2 null mutants permitted higher levels of viral RNA accumulation, and that this enhanced viral susceptibility was reversed by ectopic expression of RSD-2. We then examined the relationship of rsd-2 with other known components of RNAi pathways and established that rsd-2 functions in a novel pathway that is independent of rde-4 but likely requires the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase RRF-1, suggesting a critical role for RSD-2 in secondary viRNA biogenesis, likely through coordinated action with RRF-1. Together, these results suggest that RDVI in the single-Dicer organism C. elegans depends on the collective actions of both RDE- 4-dependent and RDE-4-independent mechanisms to produce RNAi-inducing viRNAs. Our study reveals, for the first time, a novel siRNA-producing mechanism in C. elegans that bypasses the need for a dsRNA-binding protein. © 2013, American Society for Microbiology.

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Journal of Virology

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