RNAi in host pathogen interactions
Together with our collaborators Marie-Anne Felix and Dave Wang we recently discovered the first virus to naturally infect C. elegans, a positive-strand RNA virus we named “Orsay”. Positive- strand RNA viruses encompass more than one-third of known virus genera and include many medically and agriculturally relevant human, animal, and plant pathogens. We were able to demonstrate, for the first time, that RNA interference (RNAi) provides immunity to viral infection in animals. Now we are establishing C. elegans/Orsay as a new animal model of host-virus interaction. For example, we recently carried out the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of virus susceptibility in a wild animal. Using a combined GWAS, quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping and high-throughput sequencing (HTS) approach we identified a RIG-I homologue (mammalian interferon response), as a major determinant of viral sensitivity.