RNA viruses and microRNAs: challenging discoveries for the 21st century

Physiol Genomics. 2013 Nov 15;45(22):1035-48. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00112.2013. Epub 2013 Sep 17.


RNA viruses represent the predominant cause of many clinically relevant viral diseases in humans. Among several evolutionary advantages acquired by RNA viruses, the ability to usurp host cellular machinery and evade antiviral immune responses is imperative. During the past decade, RNA interference mechanisms, especially microRNA (miRNA)-mediated regulation of cellular protein expression, have revolutionized our understanding of host-viral interactions. Although it is well established that several DNA viruses express miRNAs that play crucial roles in their pathogenesis, expression of miRNAs by RNA viruses remains controversial. However, modulation of the miRNA machinery by RNA viruses may confer multiple benefits for enhanced viral replication and survival in host cells. In this review, we discuss the current literature on RNA viruses that may encode miRNAs and the varied advantages of engineering RNA viruses to express miRNAs as potential vectors for gene therapy. In addition, we review how different families of RNA viruses can alter miRNA machinery for productive replication, evasion of antiviral immune responses, and prolonged survival. We underscore the need to further explore the complex interactions of RNA viruses with host miRNAs to augment our understanding of host-virus interplay.

Keywords: RNA virus; microRNA; pathogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA Virus Infections / genetics
  • RNA Virus Infections / therapy
  • RNA Viruses / genetics*
  • RNA Viruses / immunology
  • RNA Viruses / metabolism
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Viral