Cloning, characterization and analysis by RNA interference of various genes of the Chelonus inanitus polydnavirus

Successful parasitism of some endoparasitic wasps depends on an obligately symbiotic association with polydnaviruses. These unique viruses have a segmented genome consisting of circles of double-stranded (ds) DNA and do not replicate in the parasitized host. They are produced in the wasp's ovary and injected into the host along with the egg. Chelonus inanitus is an egg-larval parasitoid; its polydnavirus (CiV) has been shown to protect the parasitoid larva from the host's immune system and to induce developmental arrest in the prepupal stage. The genome of CiV consists of at least 10-12 segments and five have been sequenced up to now. Here, the complete (CiV12g2) or partial (CiV12g1, CiV16.8g1) cloning of three new CiV genes is reported. All three occur only on one viral segment and have no similarity to other known polydnavirus genes, with the exception of a high similarity of CiV12g1 to CiV14g1 and CiV12g2 to CiV14g2. Furthermore, the first attempt of in vivo application of RNA interference to study the function of polydnavirus genes is shown. Injection of dsRNA of two late- and one early- and late-expressed CiV genes into CiV/venom-containing host eggs partially rescued last-instar larvae from developmental arrest. Injection of the same dsRNAs into parasitized eggs partially reduced parasitoid survival, mainly by preventing the successful emergence of the parasitoid from the host. These viral genes thus seem to be involved in inducing developmental arrest and in keeping the cuticle soft, which appears to be necessary for parasitoid emergence and host feeding.

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