Activation of PKR by a short-hairpin RNA

Image credit: bioRxiv


Recognition of viral infection often relies on the detection of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), a process that is conserved in many different organisms. In mammals, proteins such as MDA5, RIG-I, OAS, and PKR detect viral dsRNA, but struggle to differentiate between viral and endogenous dsRNA. This study investigates an shRNA targeting DDX54’s potential to activate PKR, a key player in the immune response to dsRNA. Knockdown of DDX54 by a specific shRNA induced robust PKR activation in human cells, even when DDX54 is overexpressed, suggesting an off-target mechanism. Activation of PKR by the shRNA was enhanced by knockdown of ADAR1, a dsRNA binding protein that suppresses PKR activation, indicating a dsRNA-mediated mechanism. In vitro assays confirmed direct PKR activation by the shRNA. These findings emphasize the need for rigorous controls and alternative methods to validate gene function and minimize unintended immune pathway activation.

Kyle A. Cottrell
Kyle A. Cottrell
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry