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Link Uncovered Between Viral RNA And Human Immune Response

In its fight against an intruding virus, an enzyme in our immune system may sense certain types of viral RNA pairs, according to scientists.

The key lies in a virus' RNA -- a long molecular chain often used to make proteins -- and how it regulates an enzyme called protein kinase R (PKR), according to researchers from Penn State, the University of Connecticut and the University of Beijing.

"PKR plays an important role in the human immune system," said Laurie Heinicke, graduate student of chemistry and first author for the paper. "It is activated by long stretches of double-stranded RNA. As a part of our built-in immune response, PKR can recognize viral double-stranded RNAs and inhibit their production."

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