Cytomegalovirus microRNAs

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Abstract

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression at a post-transcriptional level in virtually all eukaryotic organisms and some viruses, particularly herpesviruses. miRNAs are non-immunogenic, stealthy tools for viruses to regulate their as well as host gene expression. The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the major cause of morbidity in immunocompromised patients and allogenic bone-marrow or organ-transplant recipients and the leading cause of congenital birth defects. HCMV miRNAs may provide valuable targets for new urgently needed antiviral drugs. This review focuses on recent findings for viral miRNAs expressed by cytomegaloviruses (CMV) including data from human, chimpanzee, and murine CMV. These are discussed in the context of findings for other viruses to highlight potentially conserved roles exerted by viral miRNAs.

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