Virus RNA Structure

RNA viruses, including major human threats like Dengue, usurp and reprogram host cells using short RNA genomes. RNA viruses encode the information required for their replication in both their primary sequences and higher-order structures formed when the RNA genome strand folds back on itself. However, the extent of higher-order structure has remained unclear.

Scientists in the Weeks lab used a new high-throughput RNA structure probing technology to discover that roughly one-third of the dengue virus RNA genome forms higher-order interactions, many in regions functionally important for replication.

This work suggests that tertiary structure elements might be common in large RNAs and further that these regions might contain cleft-like structures, targetable by small molecules in the design of novel antiviral therapeutics.