Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

First Advisor

Jennifer Martin

Abstract

MicroRNAs are a characteristic of many herpesvirus genomes. These short, non-coding RNAs are capable of post-transcriptional regulation of target mRNAs. Recently, packaged miRNAs have been observed in purified virions of EBV and KSHV, gammaherpesviruses pathogenic in humans. Gammaherpesvirus 68 serves as a small-animal model of gammaherpesvirus pathogenesis. It encodes eight RNA pol III transcripts known as TMERs, which include viral tRNA-like genes adjacent to one or two miRNA genes. Here, we focused on the miRNAs of TMERs 1 and 5. We detected viral miRNAs and their precursors in purified virions of wild-type gammaherpesvirus 68, as well as two mutant viruses that do not produce TMERs. This suggests viral miRNA packaging is a preferred, organized process in virion maturation. We have also established that these miRNAs are biologically active upon infection.

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