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Nature. 2005 Jun 2;435(7042):682-6.

SV40-encoded microRNAs regulate viral gene expression and reduce susceptibility to cytotoxic T cells.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Microbiology, G. W. Hooper Foundation, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0552, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small (approximately 22-nucleotide) RNAs that in lower organisms serve important regulatory roles in development and gene expression, typically by forming imperfect duplexes with target messenger RNAs. miRNAs have also been described in mammalian cells and in infections with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), but the function of most of them is unknown. Although one EBV miRNA probably altered the processing of a viral mRNA, the regulatory significance of this event is uncertain, because other transcripts exist that can supply the targeted function. Here we report the identification of miRNAs encoded by simian virus 40 (SV40) and define their functional significance for viral infection. SVmiRNAs accumulate at late times in infection, are perfectly complementary to early viral mRNAs, and target those mRNAs for cleavage. This reduces the expression of viral T antigens but does not reduce the yield of infectious virus relative to that generated by a mutant lacking SVmiRNAs. However, wild-type SV40-infected cells are less sensitive than the mutant to lysis by cytotoxic T cells, and trigger less cytokine production by such cells. Thus, viral evolution has taken advantage of the miRNA pathway to generate effectors that enhance the probability of successful infection.

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