Investigating the influence of ribavirin on human respiratory syncytial virus RNA synthesis by using a high-resolution transcriptome sequencing approach


Aljabr W, Touzelet O, Pollakis G, Wu W, Munday DC, Hughes M, Hertz-Fowler C, Kenny J, Fearns R, Barr JN, Matthews DA, Hiscox JA


Human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) is a major cause of serious respiratory tract infection. Treatment options include administration of ribavirin, a purine analog, although the mechanism of its anti-HRSV activity is unknown. We used transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) to investigate the genome mutation frequency and viral mRNA accumulation in HRSV-infected cells that were left untreated or treated with ribavirin. In the absence of ribavirin, HRSV-specific transcripts accounted for up to one-third of total RNA reads from the infected-cell RNA population. Ribavirin treatment resulted in a >90% reduction in abundance of viral mRNA reads, while at the same time no such reduction was detected for the abundance of cellular transcripts. The presented data reveal that ribavirin significantly increases the frequency of HRSV-specific RNA mutations, suggesting a direct influence on the fidelity of the HRSV polymerase. The presented data show that transitions and transversions occur during HRSV replication and that these changes occur in hot spots along the HRSV genome. Examination of nucleotide substitution rates in the viral genome indicated an increase in the frequency of transition but not transversion mutations in the presence of ribavirin. In addition, our data indicate that in the continuous cell types used and at the time points analyzed, the abundances of some HRSV mRNAs do not reflect the order in which the mRNAs are transcribed.


Journal of Virology

Research Themes:

Pathogen Discovery