When viral RNA met the cell: a story of protein-RNA interactions

RNA is a central molecule for RNA viruses, acting not only as a blue print for the synthesis of viral proteins (messenger RNA) but also as storage of the genetic information (genome). Despite the central roles of RNA in the viral life cycle, the interactions that it establishes with the host cell has remained largely unknown. We have developed new approaches to map such interactions in a proteome-wide scale, revealing a largely unexplored universe of host-virus interactions. Importantly, we discovered that taxonomically diverse viruses employ a heavily overlapping set of cellular RNA-binding proteins. The lack of sequence homology across these viruses suggests the existence of convergent mechanisms to hijack host cell resources. Moreover, interferon alpha treatment regulates the RNA-binding activity of many of the proteins that engage with viral RNA, reflecting that the cell reconfigures its RNA-binding proteome to generate a hostile environment. We will discuss several examples of cellular RNA-binding proteins with roles in infection that we are characterising with molecular detail