Viral RNA pseudoknots: versatile motifs in gene expression and replication

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2007 Aug;5(8):598-610. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1704.


RNA pseudoknots are structural elements found in almost all classes of RNA. First recognized in the genomes of plant viruses, they are now established as a widespread motif with diverse functions in various biological processes. This Review focuses on viral pseudoknots and their role in virus gene expression and genome replication. Although emphasis is placed on those well defined pseudoknots that are involved in unusual mechanisms of viral translational initiation and elongation, the broader roles of pseudoknots are also discussed, including comparisons with relevant cellular counterparts. The relationship between RNA pseudoknot structure and function is also addressed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Base Pairing*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Virus Replication* / physiology


  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral