Molecular Diversity

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 585–597

The RNase a superfamily: Generation of diversity and innate host defense



The Ribonuclease A superfamily includes an extensive network of distinct and divergent gene lineages. Although all ribonucleases of this superfamily share invariant structural and catalytic elements and some degree of enzymatic activity, the primary sequences have diverged significantly, ostensibly to promote novel function. We will review the literature on the evolution and biology of the RNase A ribonuclease lineages that have been characterized specifically as involved in host defense including: (1) RNases 2 and RNases 3, also known as the eosinophil ribonucleases, which are rapidly-evolving cationic proteins released from eosinophilic leukocytes, (2) RNase 7, an anti-pathogen ribonuclease identified in human skin, and (3) RNase 5, also known as angiogenin, another rapidly-evolving ribonuclease known to promote blood vessel growth with recently-discovered antibacterial activity. Interestingly, some of the characterized anti-pathogen activities do not depend on ribonuclease activity per se. We discuss the ways in which the anti-pathogen activities characterized in vitro might translate into experimental confirmation in vivo. We will also consider the possibility that other ribonucleases, such as the dimeric bovine seminal ribonuclease and the frog oocyte ribonucleases, may have host defense functions and therapeutic value that remain to be explored. (190 words)


angiogenin antibacterial antiviral antihelminth cytotoxin eosinophils 





eosinophl-derived neurotoxin


eosinophil cationic protein


respiratory syncytial virus




bovine seminal ribonuclease


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© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Allergic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious DiseasesNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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