Unbiased genetic screen identifies Caenorhabditis elegans genes conserved for nodavirus genome replication

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All RNA viruses produce and use RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRPs) for their genome replication. Efficient viral genome replication also requires host factors which often function as co-factors of viral RdRP. To identify host factors required for nodavirus genome replication, we carried out an unbiased genetic screen in Caenorhabditis elegans mutants defective in antiviral RNA interference. This genetic screen utilized a self-replicating GFP-tagged viral replicon, derived from flock house virus, as a reporter for the loss of viral genome replication. Upon completing the screen, 16 candidate alleles were isolated and assigned to 14 candidate genes through genetic complementation. Interestingly, 4 of the candidate genes were also found to be required for the genome replication of Orsay virus, a nodavirus that naturally infects C. elegans. Our unbiased genetic screen therefore has led to the identification of a set of worm genes conserved for nodavirus genome replication.

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