The 5'-cap-structures of higher eukaryote mRNAs are ribose 2'-O-methylated. Likewise, a number of viruses replicating in the cytoplasm of eukayotes have evolved 2'-O-methyltransferases to modify autonomously their mRNAs. However, a defined biological role of mRNA 2'-O-methylation remains elusive. Here we show that viral mRNA 2'-O-methylation is critically involved in subversion of type-I-interferon (IFN-I) induction. We demonstrate that human and murine coronavirus 2'-O-methyltransferase mutants induce increased IFN-I expression, and are highly IFN-I sensitive. Importantly, IFN-I induction by 2'-O-methyltransferase-deficient viruses is dependent on the cytoplasmic RNA sensor melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 (MDA5). This link between MDA5-mediated sensing of viral RNA and mRNA 2'-O-methylation suggests that RNA modifications, such as 2'-O-methylation, provide a molecular signature for the discrimination of self and non-self mRNA
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