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In fungi, plants, and invertebrates, antiviral RNA interference (RNAi) directed by virus-derived small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) represents a major antiviral defense that the invading viruses have to overcome in order to establish infection. As a counterdefense mechanism, viruses of these hosts produce diverse classes of proteins capable of suppressing the biogenesis and/or function of viral siRNAs. This RNA-directed viral immunity (RDVI) in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is known to exhibit some unique features. Currently, little is known about viral suppression of RNAi in C. elegans. Here, we show that ectopic expression of the B2 protein encoded by Flock House virus (FHV) suppresses RNAi induced by either long double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) or an FHV-based replicon and facilitates the natural infection of C. elegans by Orsay virus but is not active against RNA silencing mediated by microRNAs. We report the development of an assay for the identification of viral suppressor of RNAi (VSR) in C. elegans based on the suppression of a viral replicon-triggered RDVI by ectopic expression of candidate proteins. No VSR activity was detected for either of the two Orsay viral proteins proposed previously as VSRs. We detected, among the known heterologous VSRs, VSR activity for B2 of Nodamura virus but not for 2b of tomato aspermy virus, p29 of fungus-infecting hypovirus, or p19 of tomato bushy stunt virus. We further show that, unlike that in plants and insects, FHV B2 suppresses worm RDVI mainly by interfering with the function of virus-derived primary siRNAs. © 2013, American Society for Microbiology.

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Journal of Virology

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