MicroRNAs and Long Non-Coding RNAs as Potential Candidates to Target Specific Motifs of SARS-CoV-2

Noncoding RNA. 2021 Feb 18;7(1):14. doi: 10.3390/ncrna7010014.


The respiratory system is one of the most affected targets of SARS-CoV-2. Various therapies have been utilized to counter viral-induced inflammatory complications, with diverse success rates. Pending the distribution of an effective vaccine to the whole population and the achievement of "herd immunity", the discovery of novel specific therapies is to be considered a very important objective. Here, we report a computational study demonstrating the existence of target motifs in the SARS-CoV-2 genome suitable for specific binding with endogenous human micro and long non-coding RNAs (miRNAs and lncRNAs, respectively), which can, therefore, be considered a conceptual background for the development of miRNA-based drugs against COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 genome contains three motifs in the 5'UTR leader sequence recognized by selective nucleotides within the seed sequence of specific human miRNAs. The seed of 57 microRNAs contained a "GGG" motif that promoted leader sequence-recognition, primarily through offset-6mer sites able to promote microRNAs noncanonical binding to viral RNA. Similarly, lncRNA H19 binds to the 5'UTR of the viral genome and, more specifically, to the transcript of the viral gene Spike, which has a pivotal role in viral infection. Notably, some of the non-coding RNAs identified in our study as candidates for inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 gene expression have already been proposed against diverse viral infections, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and related diseases.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; non-coding RNAs; oligosequences; target therapy.