The question of whether RNA interference (RNAi) acts as an antiviral mechanism in mammalian cells remains controversial. The antiviral interferon (IFN) response cannot easily be distinguished from a possible antiviral RNAi pathway owing to the involvement of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) as a common inducer molecule. The non-structural protein 3 (NS3) protein of rice hoja blanca virus (RHBV) is an RNA silencing suppressor (RSS) that exclusively binds to small dsRNA molecules. Here, we show that this plant viral RSS lacks IFN antagonistic activity, yet it is able to substitute the RSS function of the Tat protein of human immunodeficiency virus type 1. An NS3 mutant that is deficient in RNA binding and its associated RSS activity is inactive in this complementation assay. This cross-kingdom suppression of RNAi in mammalian cells by a plant viral RSS indicates the significance of the antiviral RNAi response in mammalian cells and the usefulness of well-defined RSS proteins
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