In higher vertebrates, recognition of the non-self signature of invading viruses by genome-encoded pattern recognition receptors initiates antiviral innate immunity. Retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I)-like receptors (RLRs) detect viral RNA as a non-self pattern in the cytoplasm and activate downstream signaling. Detection of viral RNA also activates stress responses resulting in stress granule-like aggregates, which facilitate RLR-mediated antiviral immunity. Among the three RLR family members RIG-I and melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 (MDA5) recognize distinct viral RNA species with differential molecular machinery and activate signaling through mitochondrial antiviral signaling (MAVS, also known as IPS-1/VISA/Cardif), which leads to the expression of cytokines including type I and III interferons (IFNs) to restrict viral propagation. In this review, we summarize recent knowledge regarding RNA recognition and signal transduction by RLRs and MAVS/IPS-1.
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