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J Virol. 2012 Jul;86(13):7372-83. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00513-12. Epub 2012 Apr 24.

Base pairing between hepatitis C virus RNA and microRNA 122 3' of its seed sequence is essential for genome stabilization and production of infectious virus.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Inflammatory Diseases Institute and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


MicroRNA 122 (miR-122) facilitates hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication by recruiting an RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC)-like complex containing argonaute 2 (Ago2) to the 5' end of the HCV genome, thereby stabilizing the viral RNA. This requires base pairing between the miR-122 "seed sequence" (nucleotides [nt] 2 to 8) and two sequences near the 5' end of the HCV RNA: S1 (nt 22 to 28) and S2 (nt 38 to 43). However, recent reports suggest that additional base pair interactions occur between HCV RNA and miR-122. We searched 606 sequences from a public database (genotypes 1 to 6) and identified two conserved, putatively single-stranded RNA segments, upstream of S1 (nt 2 and 3) and S2 (nt 30 to 34), with potential for base pairing to miR-122 (nt 15 and 16 and nt 13 to 16, respectively). Mutagenesis and genetic complementation experiments confirmed that HCV nt 2 and 3 pair with nt 15 and 16 of miR-122 bound to S1, while HCV nt 30 to 33 pair with nt 13 to 16 of miR-122 at S2. In genotype 1 and 6 HCV, nt 4 also base pairs with nt 14 of miR-122. These 3' supplementary base pair interactions of miR-122 are functionally important and are required for Ago2 recruitment to HCV RNA by miR-122, miR-122-mediated stabilization of HCV RNA, and production of infectious virus. However, while complementary mutations at HCV nt 30 and 31 efficiently rescued the activity of a 15C,16C miR-122 mutant targeting S2, similar mutations at nt 2 and 3 failed to rescue Ago2 recruitment at S1. These data add to the current understanding of miR-122 interactions with HCV RNA but indicate that base pairing between miR-122 and the 5' 43 nt of the HCV genome is more complex than suggested by existing models.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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