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Virulence. 2013 Nov 15;4(8):785-95. doi: 10.4161/viru.26119. Epub 2013 Aug 19.

Small RNA-mediated regulation of host-pathogen interactions.

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Bioscience Division; Los Alamos National Laboratory; Los Alamos, NM USA.


The rise in antimicrobial drug resistance, alongside the failure of conventional research to discover new antibiotics, will inevitably lead to a public health crisis that can drastically curtail our ability to combat infectious disease. Thus, there is a great global health need for development of antimicrobial countermeasures that target novel cell molecules or processes. RNA represents a largely unexploited category of potential targets for antimicrobial design. For decades, control of cellular behavior was thought to be the exclusive purview of protein-based regulators. The recent discovery of small RNAs (sRNAs) as a universal class of powerful RNA-based regulatory biomolecules has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of gene regulation in practically all biological functions. In general, sRNAs regulate gene expression by base-pairing with multiple downstream target mRNAs to prevent translation of mRNA into protein. In this review, we will discuss recent studies that document discovery of bacterial, viral, and human sRNAs and their molecular mechanisms in regulation of pathogen virulence and host immunity. Illuminating the functional roles of sRNAs in virulence and host immunity can provide the fundamental knowledge for development of next-generation antibiotics using sRNAs as novel targets.


Hfq; bacterial pathogens; host immune response; miRNA; sRNA; viral pathogens; virulence

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