New windows into retroviral RNA structures.

25 Jan 2018

BACKGROUND: The multiple roles of both viral and cellular RNAs have become increasingly apparent in recent years, and techniques to model them have become significantly more powerful, enabling faster and more accurate visualization of RNA structures. MAIN BODY: Techniques such as SHAPE (selective 2'OH acylation analysed by primer extension) have revolutionized the field, and have been used to examine RNAs belonging to many and diverse retroviruses. Secondary structure probing reagents such as these have been aided by the development of faster methods of analysis either via capillary or next-generation sequencing, allowing the analysis of entire genomes, and of retroviral RNA structures within virions. Techniques to model the three-dimensional structures of these large RNAs have also recently developed. CONCLUSIONS: The flexibility of retroviral RNAs, both structural and functional, is clear from the results of these new experimental techniques. Retroviral RNA structures and structural changes control many stages of the lifecycle, and both the RNA structures themselves and their interactions with ligands are potential new drug targets. In addition, our growing understanding of retroviral RNA structures is aiding our knowledge of cellular RNA form and function.