Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Immunology and Microbiology


Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology

First Thesis Advisor

Robert Finberg, M.D.


innate immunity, Dicer, small nuclear RNA, viruses


Dissertations, UMMS; Immunity, Innate; Ribonuclease III; DEAD-box RNA Helicases; Encephalomyocarditis virus


All organisms exist in some sort of symbiosis with their environment. The food we eat, air we breathe, and things we touch all have their own microbiota and we interact with these microbiota on a daily basis. As such, we employ a method of compartmentalization in order to keep foreign entities outside of the protected internal environments of the body. However, as other organisms seek to replicate themselves, they may invade our sterile compartments in order to do so. To protect ourselves from unfettered replication of pathogens or from cellular damage, we have developed a series of receptors and signaling pathways that detect foreign bodies as well as abnormal signals from our own perturbed cells. The downstream effector molecules that these signaling pathways initiate can be toxic and damaging to both pathogen and host, so special care is given to the regulation of these systems. One method of regulation is the production of endogenous small ribonucleic acids that can regulate the expression of various receptors and adaptors in the immune signaling pathways. In this dissertation, I present work that establishes an important protein in small ribonucleic acid regulation, Dicer, as an essential protein for regulating the innate immune response to immuno-stimulatory nucleic acids as well as regulating the productive infection of encephalomyocarditis virus. Depleting Dicer from murine embryonic fibroblasts renders a disparate type I interferon response where nucleic acid stimulation in the Dicer null cells fails to produce an appreciable interferon response while infection with the paramyxovirus, Sendai, induces a more robust interferon response than the wild-type control. Additionally, I show that Dicer plays a vital role in controlling infection by the picornavirus, encephalomyocarditis virus. Encephalomyocarditis virus fails to grow efficiently in Dicer null cells due to the inability for the virus to bind to the outside of the cell, suggesting that Dicer has a role in modulating viral infection by affecting host cellular protein levels. Together, this work identifies Dicer as a key protein in viral innate immunology by regulating both the growth of virus and also the immune response generated by exposure to pathogen associated molecular patterns. Understanding this regulation will be vital for future development of small molecule therapeutics that can either modulate the innate immune response or directly affect viral growth.



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