RNA-mediated degradation of microRNAs: A widespread viral strategy?

Jana McCaskill, Pairoa Praihirunkit, Paul M. Sharp, Amy H. Buck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


Regulation of small RNAs by other non-coding RNAs is a ubiquitous feature of gene regulatory systems that can be exploited by viruses. Examples of this have been described in 3 different herpesviruses, where viral non-coding RNAs bind to highly abundant cellular (miRNAs), mediating their degradation: miR-27 is targeted by both murine cytomegalovirus and herpesvirus saimiri, while the miR-17 family is targeted by human cytomegalovirus. We review what is known about RNA-mediated regulation of miRNA stability and propose 3 potential roles that viral non-coding RNAs might assume to initiate the destruction of a miRNA, acting as "recruiters," "localizers" or "exposers." Whereas the miRNAs (miR-17 and miR-27) appear to be ancient and pre-date the common ancestor of all mammalian herpesviruses, comparative analyses of herpesvirus genomes indicate that the 3 known viral regulators of miRNA each evolved independently, and much more recently. Noting that the anti-viral activity of miRNAs might be countered by a variety of mechanisms, we propose that (i) there has been continual turnover of these mechanisms during herpesvirus evolution, and (ii) there may be many other, as yet undescribed, anti-miRNA activities encoded by other herpesviruses and indeed by viruses from other families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-585
Number of pages7
JournalRna biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2015


  • miRNA response element
  • herpesvirus
  • RNA degradation
  • RNAi
  • IL-10
  • viral evolution
  • microRNA turnover
  • microRNA
  • Transformed T Cells
  • Messenger RNA
  • host microrna
  • virus production
  • noncoding rna
  • target RNAS
  • abundance
  • binding
  • genome


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