Wolbachia pipientis is an insect endosymbiont known to limit the replication of viruses including dengue and Zika in their primary mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti. Wolbachia is being released into mosquito populations globally in a bid to control the diseases caused by these viruses. It is theorized that Wolbachia's priming of the insect immune system may confer protection against subsequent viral infection. Other hypotheses posit a role for competition between Wolbachia and viruses for host cellular resources. Using an A. aegypti cell line infected with Wolbachia, we tested the effects of targeting siRNAs against the major innate immune pathways on dengue virus loads. We show that while Wolbachia infection induces genes in the Toll, JAK/STAT and RNAi pathways, only reduced expression of RNAi leads to a rebound of dengue virus loads in Wolbachia-infected cells. The magnitude of the effect explained less than 10% of the total DENV load, demonstrating that blocking must be dependent on other factors in addition to the expression of RNAi. The findings bode well for the long-term stability of blocking given that immunity gene expression would likely be highly plastic and susceptible to rapid evolution.
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