RNA viruses are a major threat to the human health. They are responsible for infections with high morbidity and mortality rates and an extraordinary socioeconomic burden. In the last decades, different RNA viruses have produced major outbreaks against which there were no efficient therapeutic strategies. Some recent examples are HCV, HIV, influenza A virus (H5N1), SARS, ZIKV, Ebola and SARS-CoV-2 being the most recent one, which in fact has demonstrated the great vulnerability of humanity as a whole and has managed to shake the most powerful economic structures. Many data indicate that the probability of new pandemic is high. The question is whether human beings are prepared for it. Viruses have to make use of the cellular machinery and interfere with the cellular defense strategies, using them to their advantage. The viral RNA genomes are compact entities, which carry all the information that the virus requires to successfully complete the infectious cycle. In addition, to the protein coding information RNA viruses store an important amount of their genetic information in highly conserved structural elements. These structural elements perform essential functions on their own, without being translated into proteins. Deciphering the mechanisms that underlie each of the functions they perform would provide information of enormous importance to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern the virus infection and replication cycles, and to address the control of infections caused by RNA viruses. The genomic functional RNA elements constitute a large repertoire of potential targets against which to direct RNA-binding molecules. Numerous studies have reported the function of genomic structural elements of different RNA viruses. In this talk, I will summarize the work carried out by our research group to identify and characterize the functional role of RNA elements of the HCV and WNV genomes primarily. The results provide clear evidences of the existence of a genomic network of RNA/RNA interactions that govern the regulation of the essential viral processes. Our work has also demonstrated the potential of interfering with the functioning of specific structural RNA elements of viral genomes to develop antiviral strategies.
Audience Take Away:
- Protein coding information only represents a small portion of the viral genetic load.
- RNA viruses store essential information in the form of RNA structural elements.
- RNA genomes can be considered as a sequence of cis-acting ncRNAs.
- Potential therapeutic application of Interference with structural elements of viral RNA genomes.
- To think beyond the viral proteins.
- To deepen in the molecular biology of RNA viruses.
- To understand biological virus-cell interaction.
- This is essential information that has not been considered so far when trying to understand the molecular mechanisms of viruses.
- Provides new knowledge for the design antiviral strategies.
- Information for alternative solutions.
- Information to assist in the alternative design of potential solutions to address a problem.
- List all other benefits.