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Our understanding of the importance of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) in multiple biological processes has grown exponentially in recent years. Because of their preponderance, it is not surprising that almost all biological functions are in one way or another under the control of these molecules. Although they vary greatly in origin, biogenesis and mode of action, they can be roughly separated into two families based on size. At one end of the spectrum are the small ncRNAs, which are 20-30 nucleotides (nt) in size, and at the other end are the long ncRNAs, which group all RNAs larger than 200 nt. Since research on lncRNAs began, their importance in the context of viral infection has been the subject of particular attention. Indeed, by their nature, viruses are strictly dependent on a host cell to translate their genome, replicate, and generate new viral particles for propagation. In our research team, we study how a viral infection can impact biological pathways involving small ncRNAs. Our study models are viruses associated with several pathologies that represent a threat to human health. We are interested in two types of viruses:

i) DNA viruses, such as Kaposi’s sarcoma virus (KSHV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV)

ii) RNA viruses transmitted by arthropods such as Sindbis virus (SINV), Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), Zika virus (ZIKV) or tick-borne encephalitis (TBEV).

The results of our work help us to better understand the molecular mechanisms involved in the viral replicative cycle and also how the infected organism responds to viral infection at the cellular level. In the long term, we hope that our research will help develop new therapeutic approaches against viruses.

The objectives of the research team are multiple and consist on the one hand in understanding the regulation of a family of small RNAs, called microRNAs, during viral infection, and on the other hand in elucidating the importance of an antiviral defense mechanism based on the production of small interfering RNAs (siRNA) in mammals. Three major research axes can be distinguished in the team:

Axis 1  To understand how viral microRNA biogenesis can be regulated at the post-transcriptional level.

Axis 2  Identify and unravel the mechanisms involved in the degradation of cellular and viral RNAs, and their involvement in infection.

Axis 3  Address the question of the antiviral role of RNA interference in mammals and identify regulators of this activity.

Our work is supported by the ANR, the ARC Foundation, the Foundation for Medical Research and the European Union.