Effective siRNA targeting of the 3' untranslated region of the West Nile virus genome

Antiviral Res. 2009 Jun;82(3):166-8. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2008.12.007. Epub 2009 Jan 7.


West Nile virus (WNV) is an emerging human pathogen for which specific antiviral therapy has not been developed. The therapeutic potential of RNA interference (RNAi) as a sequence-specific inhibitor of WNV has been well demonstrated. Although multiple siRNA targets have been identified within the genomic coding region, targets within the untranslated regions (UTR), which encode cis-acting regulatory elements, remain relatively unknown. In WNV and other flaviviruses, UTRs are located at the genomic termini. These regions form complex secondary structures, which pose difficulty when designing effective siRNA targets. In this study, we report the identification of siRNA targets in the WNV 3' UTR. These targets were selected by siRNA predictor algorithms, and synthesized as short hairpin RNA sequences from a plasmid-based expression system. Vero cells stably expressing these sequences had greatly diminished ability to support WNV replication but not the related dengue virus, demonstrating that the siRNAs were effective and suppressed WNV viral replication in a sequence-specific manner. The siRNAs developed in this study could function as potential antiviral therapeutics and as genetic tools to investigate the role of 3' UTR in WNV pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions*
  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Dengue Virus / genetics
  • Dengue Virus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Vero Cells
  • Viral Plaque Assay
  • Virus Replication / drug effects*
  • West Nile virus / genetics*
  • West Nile virus / physiology


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Antiviral Agents
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA, Viral