Ramirez Carvajal, Lisbeth (2011-08). RNA Interference-Based Approach to Combat Viral Infections: Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Group Prototype. Master's Thesis.
Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is considered a prototype for studying non-segmented negative-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses. Livestock are naturally infected by VSV, causing severe economic impact due to lack of any effective treatment. RNA interference (RNAi)-based therapeutics are promising alternatives to control viral infections. Lentiviral vector systems deliver artificial short hairpin RNA (shRNA) into the genome of cells to activate the RNAi pathway. In this study, an RNAi-based approach to generate cell lines with reduced susceptibility to VSV (Indiana) infection was tested. First, eight shRNAs targeting either the nucleocapsid (N), phosphoprotein (P), or the polymerase (L) viral genes were designed and introduced into cell systems. To test the potency of the shRNAs for silencing the target viral transcripts, semi-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of viral N, P, and L transcripts was performed. Then, supernatants from infected groups were evaluated by microtitration and immunoblot. Finally, the effect of VSV genomic variability in the target region of shRNAs was predicted by partial sequencing field and laboratory-adapted strains. Viral transcripts were significantly reduced in cells stably expressing shRNAs targeting the N viral gene (nucleotides 67-97 or 1312-1332; p<0.05) or P gene (nucleotides 1772-1792; p<0.05). Reduction in viral transcripts was not observed by other VSV-shRNAs tested. Reduction of viral transcripts by the N-shRNA (sh-1312) was accompanied by a decrease in viral protein. Also, a reduction in the viral particles shed from cells expressing N-shRNAs (nucleotides 67-97, p<0.05) was noted. The results also showed complementarity of target gene sequences for shRNAs in the sequence from the laboratory-adapted strain and single base substitutions in the corresponding regions from VSV field isolates. However, these mismatches did not occur within the seed region of the shRNAs. In conclusion, partial silencing of viral transcripts by a single shRNA does not block VSIV replication; however, partial impairment of VSIV replication was observed in N-shRNAs expressing cells. During infection, the naturally high level of N gene transcription may have modulated the sh-RNA effect. The combination of the most potent shRNAs identified here into a multiple shRNA vector may result in further reduction of viral replication. These data contribute to ongoing development of effective RNAi-based technologies to combat viral diseases.