MicroRNA and nonsense transcripts as putative viral evasion mechanisms

Abhijeet A. Bakre, Ali Maleki, Ralph A. Tripp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Viral proteins encode numerous antiviral activities to modify the host immunity. In this article, we hypothesize that viral genomes and gene transcripts interfere with host gene expression using passive mechanisms to deregulate host microRNA (miRNA) activity. We postulate that various RNA viruses mimic or block binding between a host miRNA and its target transcript, a phenomenon mediated by the miRNA seed site at the 5′ end of miRNA. Virus-encoded miRNA seed sponges (vSSs) can potentially bind to host miRNA seed sites and prevent interaction with their native targets thereby relieving native miRNA suppression. In contrast, virus-encoded miRNA seed mimics (vSMs) may mediate considerable downregulation of host miRNA activity. We analyzed genomes from diverse RNA viruses for vSS and vSM signatures and found an abundance of these motifs indicating that this may be a mechanism of deceiving host immunity. Employing respiratory syncytial virus and measles virus as models, we reveal that regions surrounding vSS or vSM motifs have features characteristics of pre-miRNA templates and show that RSV viral transcripts are processed into small RNAs that may behave as vSS or vSM effectors. These data suggest that complex molecular interactions likely occur at the host-virus interface. Identifying the mechanisms in the network of interactions between the host and viral transcripts can help uncover ways to improve vaccine efficacy, therapeutics, and potentially mitigate the adverse events that may be associated with some vaccines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


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