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IISER Bhopal Scientists Identify Key RNA in HIV-1 Multiplication

Written by : Aishwarya Sarthe

September 27, 2023

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The study aimed to unravel the mysteries surrounding circular RNA, a less abundant and harder-to-detect molecule, especially during viral infections like HIV-1.

In a research-based development, scientists from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal have identified a specific circular RNA (circRNA) known as 'ciTRAN,' which plays a crucial role in the multiplication of the AIDS-causing HIV-1 virus within the human body.

Led by Dr Ajit Chande from the department of biological sciences at IISER Bhopal, the research underscores how ciTRAN facilitates the copying of genetic information from the virus, aiding the virus in multiplying more effectively. 

The study aimed to unravel the mysteries surrounding circular RNA, a less abundant and harder-to-detect molecule, especially during viral infections like HIV-1. 

Dr Ajit Chande explained, "Characterizing circular RNA can be tricky due to its lower abundance and complexity in detection. It's comparable to deciphering a complicated recipe. Additionally, the abundance of viral RNA can make detecting less common RNA molecules challenging during viral infections. Hence, we needed innovative methods to identify and understand their roles."

Employing a novel technique called 'circDR-Seq,' the researchers successfully captured circRNAs from T-cells (white blood cells) infected with the HIV-1 virus. 

Through this approach, they pinpointed ciTRAN as a specific circRNA that significantly aids the virus's multiplication. Dr Chande elaborated, "Our findings suggest that the HIV-1 virus strategically utilizes this host-encoded ciTRAN to enhance its multiplication. This revelation uncovers a previously unknown aspect of how viruses like HIV-1 surpass transmission barriers."

The research, published in the Science Advances journal, was a collaborative effort with contributions from several researchers, including Vipin Bhardwaj, Aman Singh, Aditi Choudhary, Rishikesh Dalavi, Dr Lalchhanhima Ralte, Dr Richard Chawngthu, Nachimuthu Senthilkumar, Nagarjun Vijay, and Professor Ajit Chande. 

Unlike typical straight-chain RNA structures, Circular RNA forms a closed loop and is essential in regulating gene expression, playing a pivotal role in various biological processes. Despite its significance, the role of circRNA in HIV-1 replication has been largely unclear.

This research provides essential insights into HIV-1 replication mechanisms and paves the way for potential host-directed treatments. 

The findings highlighted the importance of understanding the role of circRNA in viral infections, which could be crucial in advancing future healthcare strategies.


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