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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a ubiquitous component of gene regulatory networks that modulate the precise amounts of proteins expressed in a cell. Despite their small size, miRNA genes contain various recognition elements that enable specificity in when, where and to what extent they are expressed. The importance of precise control of miRNA expression is underscored by functional studies in model organisms and by the association between miRNA mis-expression and disease. In the last decade, identification of the pathways by which miRNAs are produced, matured and turned-over has revealed many aspects of their biogenesis that are subject to regulation. Studies in viral systems have revealed a range of mechanisms by which viruses target these pathways through viral proteins or non-coding RNAs in order to regulate cellular gene expression. In parallel, a field of study has evolved around the activation and suppression of antiviral RNA interference (RNAi) by viruses. Virus encoded suppressors of RNAi can impact miRNA biogenesis in cases where miRNA and small interfering RNA pathways converge. Here we review the literature on the mechanisms by which miRNA biogenesis and turnover are regulated in animals and the diverse strategies that viruses use to subvert or inhibit these processes.
- MicroRNA biogenesis
- MicroRNA turnover
- RNA degradation
- Viral suppressor of RNA interference