Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Identification and validation of a novel microRNA-like molecule derived from a cytoplasmic RNA virus antigenome by bioinformatics and experimental approaches

Jiandong Shi1, Zhiqing Duan1, Jing Sun1, Meini Wu1, Bin Wang2, Jing Zhang1, Haixuan Wang1, Ningzhu Hu1 and Yunzhang Hu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Yunnan Key Laboratory of Vaccine Research & Development on Severe Infectious Diseases, Institute of Medical Biology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Kunming 650118, China

2 Department of Life Science and Biotechnology, Kunming University, Kunming 650214, China

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Virology Journal 2014, 11:121  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-11-121

Published: 1 July 2014



It is generally believed that RNA virus replicating in the cell cytoplasm would not encode microRNAs (miRNAs) due to nucleus inaccessibility. Recent studies have described cytoplasmic RNA virus genome-derived miRNAs in West Nile virus (WNV) and Dengue virus (DENV). However, naturally occurring miRNAs derived from the antigenome of a cytoplasmic RNA virus have not been described.


Hepatitis A virus (HAV) was served as a model virus to investigate whether the antigenome of a cytoplasmic RNA virus would be processed into miRNAs or miRNA-like small RNAs upon infection. HAV antigenome was queried for putative miRNA precursors (pre-miRNA) with the VMir analyzer program. Mature miRNA prediction was performed using MatureBayes and Bayes-SVM-MiRNA web server v1.0. Finally, multiple experimental approaches, including cloning and sequencing-, RNAi-, plasmid-based miRNA expression- and luciferase reporter assays, were performed to identify and validate naturally occurring viral antigenome-derived miRNAs.


Using human HAV genotype IA (isolate H2) (HAVH2), a virally encoded miRNA-like small RNA was detected on the antigenome and named hav-miR-N1-3p. Transcription of viral pre-miRNA in KMB17 and HEK293T cells led to mature hav-miR-N1-3p production. In addition, silencing of the miRNA-processing enzyme Dicer or Drosha caused a dramatic reduction in miRNA levels. Furthermore, artificial target of hav-miR-N1-3p was silenced by synthesized viral miRNA mimics and the HAVH2 naturally-derived hav-miR-N1-3p.


These results suggested that the antigenome of a cytoplasmic RNA virus could be processed into functional miRNAs. Our findings provide new evidence supporting the hypothesis that cytoplasmic RNA viruses naturally encode miRNAs through cellular miRNA processing machinery.

Hepatitis A virus; Antigenome; MicroRNA-like molecule; Picornavirus