Drs. Cara Pager and Daniele Fabris were recently awarded a $1.9 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study how adding different chemical groups on RNA affects the infectious cycle of a virus. Research supported by this grant builds upon their findings that the RNA in cells and RNA isolated from different viruses such as HIV-1, hepatitis C, Zika, Dengue and polioviruses is coated with chemical groups. Pager and Fabris will now study how viruses manipulate the host into decorating the viral RNA with chemical groups and whether during infection, these chemical marks help camouflage the virus or flag it as an invader.
Pager and Fabris say that “this project will transform our view of viral RNA from mere templates for synthesis of viral proteins and new genomes to pivotal regulators of the infectious cycle.”
Beyond the virology field, the knowledge generated by this research will help to clarify how chemical groups on RNA impact gene regulation, which is highly anticipated but still sorely missing. This knowledge will cement the broader impact of this project by shedding new light onto the functions of the epitranscriptome in many other processes involving RNA, which will help expand our understanding of devastating diseases linked to RNA malfunction.