An antiviral role for the RNA interference machinery in Caenorhabditis elegans.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a sequence-specific gene-silencing mechanism triggered by exogenous dsRNA. In plants an RNAi-like mechanism defends against viruses, but the hypothesis that animals possess a similar natural antiviral mechanism related to RNAi remains relatively untested. To test whether genes needed for RNAi defend animal cells against virus infection, we infected wild-type and RNAi-defective cells of the nematode C. elegans with vesicular stomatitis virus engineered to encode a GFP fusion protein. We show that upon infection, cells lacking components of the RNAi apparatus produce more GFP and infective particles than wild-type cells. Furthermore, we show that mutant cells with enhanced RNAi produce less GFP. Our observation that multiple genes required for RNAi are also required for resistance to vesicular stomatitis virus suggests that the RNAi machinery functions in resistance to viruses in nature.