A viroid-derived system to produce large amounts of recombinant RNA in Escherichia coli.Sci Rep. 2018 01 30; 8(1):1904.SR
Viruses have been engineered into useful biotechnological tools for gene therapy or to induce the synthesis of products of interest, such as therapeutic proteins and vaccines, in animal and fungal cells, bacteria or plants. Viroids are a particular class of infectious agents of higher plants that exclusively consist of a small non-protein-coding circular RNA molecule. In the same way as viruses have been transformed into useful biotechnological devices, can viroids be converted into beneficial tools? We show herein that, by expressing Eggplant latent viroid (ELVd) derived RNAs in Escherichia coli together with the eggplant tRNA ligase, this being the enzyme involved in viroid circularization in the infected plant, RNAs of interest like aptamers, extended hairpins, or other structured RNAs are produced in amounts of tens of milligrams per liter of culture. Although ELVd fails to replicate in E. coli, ELVd precursors self-cleave through the embedded hammerhead ribozymes and the resulting monomers are, in part, circularized by the co-expressed enzyme. The mature viroid forms and the protein likely form a ribonucleoprotein complex that transitorily accumulates in E. coli cells at extraordinarily amounts.