Every living entity requires the capacity to defend against viruses in some form. From bacteria to plants to arthropods, cells retain the capacity to capture genetic material, process it in a variety of ways, and subsequently use it to generate pathogen-specific small RNAs. These small RNAs can then be used to provide specificity to an otherwise non-specific nuclease, generating a potent antiviral system. While small RNA-based defenses in chordates are less utilized, the protein-based antiviral invention in this phylum appears to have derived from components of the same ancestral small RNA machinery. Based on recent evidence, it would seem that RNase III nucleases have been reiteratively repurposed over billions of years to provide cells with the capacity to recognize and destroy unwanted genetic material. Here we describe an overview of what is known on this subject and provide a model for how these defenses may have evolved.
- RNA metabolism
- RNase III