RIG-I is our first line of defense against RNA viruses, serving as a pattern recognition receptor that identifies molecular features common among dsRNA and ssRNA viral pathogens. RIG-I is maintained in an inactive conformation as it samples the cellular space for pathogenic RNAs. Upon encounter with the triphosphorylated terminus of blunt-ended viral RNA duplexes, the receptor changes conformation and releases a pair of signaling domains (CARDs) that are selectively modified and interact with an adapter protein (MAVS), thereby triggering a signaling cascade that stimulates transcription of interferons. Here, we describe the structural determinants for specific RIG-I activation by viral RNA, and we describe the strategies by which RIG-I remains inactivated in the presence of host RNAs. From the initial RNA triggering event to the final stages of interferon expression, we describe the experimental evidence underpinning our working knowledge of RIG-I signaling. We draw parallels with behavior of related proteins MDA5 and LGP2, describing evolutionary implications of their collective surveillance of the cell. We conclude by describing the cell biology and immunological investigations that will be needed to accurately describe the role of RIG-I in innate immunity and to provide the necessary foundation for pharmacological manipulation of this important receptor.
Keywords: RLR; anti-viral response; innate immunity; interferon; pattern recognition receptor.
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.