Host-Dependent Modifications of Packaged Alphavirus Genomic RNA Influence Virus Replication in Mammalian Cells

John M. Crawford, Liewei L. Yan, Hani Zaher, Richard W. Hardy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Alphaviruses must interact efficiently with two distinct host environments in order to replicate and transmit between vertebrate and mosquito hosts. Some host-origin-dependent differences in virus particle composition that appear to facilitate the transmission cycle are known. However, the impact of host-mediated modification of packaged viral genomic RNA on subsequent infection has not been previously investigated. Here we show that in human (HEK-293) cells, mosquito-derived Sindbis virus (SINV) replicates and spreads faster, producing a more infectious virus than its mammalian-derived counterpart. This enhanced replication is neither a result of differences in the stability nor the production of the infecting genomic RNA. Nevertheless, purified genomic RNA from mosquito-derived SINV established infection in HEK-293 cells more efficiently than that of mammalian-derived SINV, indicating that the genomic RNA itself is different between the two producing hosts and this difference is a determinant of infection. In agreement with this idea, we show that mosquito-derived SINV genomic RNA is a more active template for translation than mammalian-derived SINV genomic RNA, and we attribute this difference to host-dependent changes in modification of packaged genomic RNA as determined by LC/MS-MS. Our data support the hypothesis that among other factors, the host-dependent modification profile of the packaged vRNA is likely to play an important role in the efficiency of SINV infection and replication in mammalian cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2606
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • RNA modifications
  • host dependence
  • virus infectivity


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