Public Release: 

A new player helping viruses hijack their hosts

American Association for the Advancement of Science

A particular long noncoding RNA gives viruses a replication boost as they infect their hosts, helping them alter their host cell's metabolism to their advantage, scientists report. The finding reveals a new way that viruses interact with hosts, for survival, and reveals a potential target for developing broad-acting antiviral therapeutics. Viruses thrive in the hosts they infect because they alter the metabolic networks of these organisms, though just which molecules and mechanisms are involved in this process - allowing viruses to prosper - has been unclear. Identifying them is critical for better understanding viral infection broadly, which helps in developing antiviral strategies. Here, Pin Wang and colleagues sought to explore host-virus interactions outside of those controlled by type 1 interferon. They focused specifically on long noncoding RNAs, the function of which in virally infected cells has been unclear. Working in mouse and human cells, they identified a novel long noncoding RNA they call lncRNA-ACOD1 that was induced by viral infection, by multiple viruses. Its presence enhanced replication of these viruses through interaction with a particular metabolic enzyme, the researchers report. Critically, in cells deficient in this long noncoding RNA, viral replication was weaker, substantiating the molecule's role as a helper in the viral effort to hijack a host.

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