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Five Questions about Viruses and MicroRNAs

  • Bryan R. Cullen mail

    Affiliation: Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and Center for Virology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America

  • Published: February 26, 2010
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000787
  • Featured in PLOS Collections

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An important sixth question: Are selected microRNAs transmissible, infectious and associated with aberrant conditions and diseases?

Posted by rickisfriend on 06 Mar 2010 at 08:23 GMT

In 1982, when seeking explanations for acid-labile α-interferon in clinical laboratory reports associated with HIV/AIDS, I coined the term ‘autovirulence’ to explain the potential transmissibility and infectiousness of selected stress-activated viral secondary particles that effectively interfere with host translation products (1). At the very least, stress-activated Epstein-Barr virus-encoded secondary miRNAs (i.e., EBER-1 and EBER-2), selected adenovirus-encoded secondary miRNAs (e.g., VA-I and VA-II), and possibly vesicular stomatitis secondary miRNAs are implicated in transmissible and infectious processes. Autovirulence, as an epigenetic mechanism, also is associated with Kaposi sarcoma (1-3). Subsequent reports (4-8) suggest that autovirulence is implicated in more than 100 aberrant conditions, syndromes, disorders and diseases. These include potential etiologies for selected cancers (e.g., Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas, polyclonal lymphomas, autoimmune disorders (e.g., systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren disease et al.), chronic fatigue syndrome, molecular mimicry (e.g., acid-labile α-interferon), autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, de novo mutations, congenital disorders (e.g., mosaic Down syndrome), failures in gene therapies associated with the deaths of Jesse Gelsinger and Jolee Mohr et al. (4-8). Perhaps most important, autovirulence appears to confer selected evolutionary advantages for both hosts and viruses.

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3. Smith RW, Rouse R, Pearson G & Hu C. (1984) Evidence of Epstein-Barr Virus Antigens in Kaposi's Sarcoma. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 82(4):423.
4. Smith RW. (2007) A Transpersonal Approach to Helping Unknowingly Needy and Worried Well Persons: An Example of In Situ Diagnoses and Follow-Up in the Study of Common Sense and Aberrant Common Sense in Post-World War II Germany, Karl Jaspers Forum Target Article 100 (December 15, 2007; available online at <>).
5. Smith, RW. (2008) Common Sense – Its Development and Disorders, ExtraOrdinary Technology 6(2-Apr/May/Jun):49-64 (expanded version of this article is available online at <>).
6. Smith, RW. (2009) More on Common Sense – Its Development and Disorders, ExtraOrdinary Technology 7(1-Spring/Summer):49-64 (expanded version of this article is available online at <>).
7. Fisher C. (2009) A Novel and Potentially Groundbreaking Viral Theory of Autism and Schizophrenia. Behavioral Medicine Report (Available online at < Thursday March 19th, 2009).
8. Smith, R. Wm. (2010). Autovirulence involving stress-activated EBV secondary particles can explain CFIDS/ME, British Medical Journal 340 (Available online 2 March 2010 as a rapid response <>).

Competing interests declared: I previously reported that selected microRNAs are transmissible, infectious and sources of numerous conditions, syndromes, disorders and diseases. My observations provide reasons for relatively common viruses being associated with panolpies of relatively uncommon ... indeed vexing ... conditions.