A paper published in this week's Science reports for the first time the identification of micro RNAs in the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genome. The findings could explain previously puzzling mechanisms for infection, latency, and tumorigenesis in EBV, according to the paper's authors.

Micro RNAs are about 22 nucleotides in length and arise from defined genes to produce transcripts that typically form imperfect hairpin structures, said James C. Carrington, director of the Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology at Oregon State University. They are precisely processed to yield a single micro RNA that targets in trans one or more genes for post-transcriptional negative regulation, said Carrington, who was not involved in the study.

In spite of having been intensively studied for years, five of the 80 genes in the genome of EBV—a DNA virus—have consistently been missed, said Thomas Tuschl, from the laboratory of RNA Molecular Biology at the...

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