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A Cellular MicroRNA Mediates Antiviral Defense in Human Cells

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Science  22 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5721, pp. 557-560
DOI: 10.1126/science.1108784

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Abstract

In eukaryotes, 21- to 24-nucleotide-long RNAs engage in sequence-specific interactions that inhibit gene expression by RNA silencing. This process has regulatory roles involving microRNAs and, in plants and insects, it also forms the basis of a defense mechanism directed by small interfering RNAs that derive from replicative or integrated viral genomes. We show that a cellular microRNA effectively restricts the accumulation of the retrovirus primate foamy virus type 1 (PFV-1) in human cells. PFV-1 also encodes a protein, Tas, that suppresses microRNA-directed functions in mammalian cells and displays cross-kingdom antisilencing activities. Therefore, through fortuitous recognition of foreign nucleic acids, cellular microRNAs have direct antiviral effects in addition to their regulatory functions.

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