Inhibition of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection by Small Non-Coding RNA Fragments

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 May 26;23(11):5990. doi: 10.3390/ijms23115990.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes acute lower respiratory tract infection in infants, immunocompromised individuals and the elderly. As the only current specific treatment options for RSV are monoclonal antibodies, there is a need for efficacious antiviral treatments against RSV to be developed. We have previously shown that a group of synthetic non-coding single-stranded DNA oligonucleotides with lengths of 25-40 nucleotides can inhibit RSV infection in vitro and in vivo. Based on this, herein, we investigate whether naturally occurring single-stranded small non-coding RNA (sncRNA) fragments present in the airways have antiviral effects against RSV infection. From publicly available sequencing data, we selected sncRNA fragments such as YRNAs, tRNAs and rRNAs present in human bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) from healthy individuals. We utilized a GFP-expressing RSV to show that pre-treatment with the selected sncRNA fragments inhibited RSV infection in A549 cells in vitro. Furthermore, by using a flow cytometry-based binding assay, we demonstrate that these naturally occurring sncRNAs fragments inhibit viral infection most likely by binding to the RSV entry receptor nucleolin and thereby preventing the virus from binding to host cells, either directly or via steric hindrance. This finding highlights a new function of sncRNAs and displays the possibility of using naturally occurring sncRNAs as treatments against RSV.

Keywords: Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV); YRNA; rRNA; sncRNAs; tRNA.

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • RNA, Small Untranslated* / genetics
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human* / genetics


  • Antiviral Agents
  • RNA, Small Untranslated