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Semin Liver Dis. 2015 Feb;35(1):75-80. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1397351. Epub 2015 Jan 29.

Interaction of host cell microRNAs with the HCV RNA genome during infection of liver cells.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California.


It has remained an enigma how hepatitis C viral (HCV) RNA can persist in the liver of infected patients for many decades. With the recent discovery of roles for microRNAs in gene expression, it was reported that the HCV RNA genome subverts liver-specific microRNA miR-122 to protect its 5' end from degradation by host cell exoribonucleases. Sequestration of miR-122 in cultured liver cells and in the liver of chimpanzees by small, modified antisense RNAs resulted in dramatic loss of HCV RNA and viral yield. This finding led to the first successful human trial in which subcutaneous administration of antisense molecules against miR-122 lowered viral yield in HCV patients, without the emergence of resistant virus. In this review, the authors summarize the molecular mechanism by which miR-122 protects the HCV RNA genome from degradation by exoribonucleases Xrn1 and Xrn2 and discuss the application of miR-122 antisense molecules in the clinic.

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