All About the RNA: Interferon-Stimulated Genes That Interfere With Viral RNA Processes

Front Immunol. 2020 Dec 9:11:605024. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.605024. eCollection 2020.


Interferon (IFN) signaling induces the expression of a wide array of genes, collectively referred to as IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) that generally function to inhibit viral replication. RNA viruses are frequently targeted by ISGs through recognition of viral replicative intermediates and molecular features associated with viral genomes, or the lack of molecular features associated with host mRNAs. The ISGs reviewed here primarily inhibit viral replication in an RNA-centric manner, working to sense, degrade, or repress expression of viral RNA. This review focuses on dissecting how these ISGs exhibit multiple antiviral mechanisms, often through use of varied co-factors, highlighting the complexity of the type I IFN response. Specifically, these ISGs can mediate antiviral effects through viral RNA degradation, viral translation inhibition, or both. While the OAS/RNase L pathway globally degrades RNA and arrests translation, ISG20 and ZAP employ targeted RNA degradation and translation inhibition to block viral replication. Meanwhile, SHFL targets translation by inhibiting -1 ribosomal frameshifting, which is required by many RNA viruses. Finally, a number of E3 ligases inhibit viral transcription, an attractive antiviral target during the lifecycle of negative-sense RNA viruses which must transcribe their genome prior to translation. Through this review, we aim to provide an updated perspective on how these ISGs work together to form a complex network of antiviral arsenals targeting viral RNA processes.

Keywords: RNA sensing; co-factors; interferon-stimulated genes; translation inhibition; viral RNA degradation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 2',5'-Oligoadenylate Synthetase / genetics
  • 2',5'-Oligoadenylate Synthetase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Endoribonucleases / genetics
  • Endoribonucleases / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / genetics
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / metabolism*
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional*
  • RNA Stability
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / genetics
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism
  • Ubiquitination
  • Virus Diseases / genetics
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / metabolism
  • Virus Diseases / virology*
  • Virus Replication*
  • Viruses / genetics*
  • Viruses / immunology
  • Viruses / metabolism


  • Interferon Regulatory Factors
  • RNA, Viral
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • 2',5'-Oligoadenylate Synthetase
  • Endoribonucleases
  • 2-5A-dependent ribonuclease