Unconventional viral gene expression mechanisms as therapeutic targets

Jessica Sook Yuin Ho, Zeyu Zhu, Ivan Marazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Unlike the human genome that comprises mostly noncoding and regulatory sequences, viruses have evolved under the constraints of maintaining a small genome size while expanding the efficiency of their coding and regulatory sequences. As a result, viruses use strategies of transcription and translation in which one or more of the steps in the conventional gene–protein production line are altered. These alternative strategies of viral gene expression (also known as gene recoding) can be uniquely brought about by dedicated viral enzymes or by co-opting host factors (known as host dependencies). Targeting these unique enzymatic activities and host factors exposes vulnerabilities of a virus and provides a paradigm for the design of novel antiviral therapies. In this Review, we describe the types and mechanisms of unconventional gene and protein expression in viruses, and provide a perspective on how future basic mechanistic work could inform translational efforts that are aimed at viral eradication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-371
Number of pages10
Issue number7859
StatePublished - 20 May 2021


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