Viruses and microRNAs.
The discovery of RNA interference and cellular microRNAs (miRNAs) has not only affected how biological research is conducted but also revealed an entirely new level of post-transcriptional gene regulation. Here, I discuss the potential functions of the virally encoded miRNAs recently identified in several pathogenic human viruses and propose that cellular miRNAs may have had a substantial effect on viral evolution and may continue to influence the in vivo tissue tropism of viruses. Our increasing knowledge of the role and importance of virally encoded miRNAs will probably offer new insights into how viruses that establish latent infections, such as herpesviruses, avoid elimination by the host innate or adaptive immune system. Research into viral miRNA function might also suggest new approaches for treating some virally induced diseases.
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