Deep RNA sequencing reveals hidden features and dynamics of early gene transcription in Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus 1

Guillaume Blanc, Michael Mozar, Irina V. Agarkova, James R. Gurnon, Giane Yanai-Balser, Janet M. Rowe, Yuannan Xia, Jean Jack Riethoven, David D. Dunigan, James L. Van Etten

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Abstract

Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus 1 (PBCV-1) is the prototype of the genus Chlorovirus (family Phycodnaviridae) that infects the unicellular, eukaryotic green alga Chlorella variabilis NC64A. The 331-kb PBCV-1 genome contains 416 major open reading frames. A mRNA-seq approach was used to analyze PBCV-1 transcriptomes at 6 progressive times during the first hour of infection. The alignment of 17 million reads to the PBCV-1 genome allowed the construction of single-base transcriptome maps. Significant transcription was detected for a subset of 50 viral genes as soon as 7 min after infection. By 20 min post infection (p.i.), transcripts were detected for most PBCV-1 genes and transcript levels continued to increase globally up to 60 min p.i., at which time 41% or the poly (A+)-containing RNAs in the infected cells mapped to the PBCV-1 genome. For some viral genes, the number of transcripts in the latter time points (20 to 60 min p.i.) was much higher than that of the most highly expressed host genes. RNA-seq data revealed putative polyadenylation signal sequences in PBCV-1 genes that were identical to the polyadenylation signal AAUAAA of green algae. Several transcripts have an RNA fragment excised. However, the frequency of excision and the resulting putative shortened protein products suggest that most of these excision events have no functional role but are probably the result of the activity of misled splicesomes.

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