There is a special antiviral immune response in plants and insects: RNAi reaction (RNA interference). Although RNAi is also found in mammals, scientists have only discovered that this process is only involved in gene regulation and not in antiviral responses. Olivier Voinnet of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich recently found evidence that RNAi is involved in mammalian antiviral immune responses. Related reports were published in Science.
Small interfering RNA--a powerful weapon against viruses
Scientists use two viruses to infect mouse embryonic stem cells, namely EMCV (encephalomyocarditis virus) and NoV (Nodamura virus). The scientists then examined the expression of small RNAs 22 nucleotides in the cell. Sequencing revealed that these small RNAs were clearly targeted to the viral genome and possessed all the characteristics of RNAi. This study provides the first evidence that viral infections can also activate mammalian RNAi.
The activated RNAi will combine the corresponding sequence of the viral genome during the replication of the viral genome, and then RNAi will guide the intracellular protein molecule scissors to cut the viral genome. The viral genome is cut into harmless fragments and the virus cannot replicate.
The beauty of simplicity
SiRNAs can also be detected in newborn mice infected with NoV. These siRNAs are strikingly similar to those found by Dr. Voinnet in cultured mouse stem cells, suggesting that these siRNAs provide young mice with almost complete immunity against viruses. Dr. Voinnet said that this is a very important evidence that the antiviral RNAi exists not only in stem cells but also in normal tissues.
Therefore, scientists have revealed another important immune mechanism of mammals. Dr. Voinnet said that the immune mechanism is very simple, but it is a very common mechanism. RNAi maintains the normal function of cells, and RNAi is also a cell's anti-viral weapon. Since the RNAi reaction is provided by the virus itself, the mechanism is theoretically applicable to any virus.
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