MicroRNAs (miRNAs), which are small non-coding RNAs expressed by almost all metazoans, have key roles in the regulation of cell differentiation, organism development and gene expression. Thousands of miRNAs regulating approximately 60 % of the total human genome have been identified. They regulate genetic expression either by direct cleavage or by translational repression of the target mRNAs recognized through partial complementary base pairing. The active and functional unit of miRNA is its complex with Argonaute proteins known as the microRNA-induced silencing complex (miRISC). De-regulated miRNA expression in the human cell may contribute to a diverse group of disorders including cancer, cardiovascular dysfunctions, liver damage, immunological dysfunction, metabolic syndromes and pathogenic infections. Current day studies have revealed that miRNAs are indeed a pivotal component of host-pathogen interactions and host immune responses toward microorganisms. miRNA is emerging as a tool for genetic study, therapeutic development and diagnosis for human pathogenic infections caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi. Many pathogens can exploit the host miRNA system for their own benefit such as surviving inside the host cell, replication, pathogenesis and bypassing some host immune barriers, while some express pathogen-encoded miRNA inside the host contributing to their replication, survival and/or latency. In this review, we discuss the role and significance of miRNA in relation to some pathogenic viruses.
Keywords: Gene regulation; Pathogens; miRISC; microRNA.