A group of researchers from the University of Julius Maximilians (Germany) has managed to answer a long-standing key question about herpesvirus, how the virus gets out of its latent state and reinfect the organism. The one that causes reactivation is a microRNA of the virus. They discover a new unknown viral mechanism so far.
Since the first infection of the organism, the traditional herpesvirus remains latent, through the evasion of the immune system, mysteriously. Eight herpesviruses have been identified in humans, all of them with this ability. When they wake up, researchers believe the virus affects the heart. But it can also cause other problems such as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and nervous system diseases.
To awaken the virus, human herpes HHV-6 now uses miR-aU14 microRNA. It actually participates in the replication of the virus, but they've seen that it also helps to get out of the latent situation. MicroRNAs are small, non-coding RNAs that prevent the genetic expression of other genes. This microRNA of the herpesvirus prevents the maturation process of a family of human microRNA, which causes mitochondrial damage. Mitochondria, besides being essential structures to produce energy, emit key signals in immune protection against viruses. Acting on it is key to be able to easily reactivate the herpes virus. In particular, the immune system prevents the occurrence of interferons in the presence of viruses that allow free cellular reinfection.
They have not yet fully detailed the reactivation mechanism of the virus, but have said they will continue to investigate until the cells involved in reactivation are identified and ways to eliminate them. Moreover, the fact that microRNA molecules are able to inhibit other microRNA has made it possible to predict that they can serve to design new therapeutic strategies to combat other diseases. The study was published in Nature.