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EMBO J. 2008 Dec 17;27(24):3300-10. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2008.244. Epub 2008 Nov 20.

microRNA-122 stimulates translation of hepatitis C virus RNA.

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Institute of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a positive strand RNA virus that propagates primarily in the liver. We show here that the liver-specific microRNA-122 (miR-122), a member of a class of small cellular RNAs that mediate post-transcriptional gene regulation usually by repressing the translation of mRNAs through interaction with their 3'-untranslated regions (UTRs), stimulates the translation of HCV. Sequestration of miR-122 in liver cell lines strongly reduces HCV translation, whereas addition of miR-122 stimulates HCV translation in liver cell lines as well as in the non-liver HeLa cells and in rabbit reticulocyte lysate. The stimulation is conferred by direct interaction of miR-122 with two target sites in the 5'-UTR of the HCV genome. With a replication-defective NS5B polymerase mutant genome, we show that the translation stimulation is independent of viral RNA synthesis. miR-122 stimulates HCV translation by enhancing the association of ribosomes with the viral RNA at an early initiation stage. In conclusion, the liver-specific miR-122 may contribute to HCV liver tropism at the level of translation.

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