Our innate immune systems are evolved to provide the first line of immune defense against microbial infections. A key effector component is the adenosine deaminase acting on the RNA-1 (ADAR-1)/ interferon (IFN) pathway of the innate cytoplasmic immunity that mounts rapid responses to many viral pathogens. As an RNA-editing enzyme, ADAR-1 targets viral RNA intermediates in the cytoplasmic compartment to interfere with the infection. However, ADAR-1 may also edit characteristic RNA structures of certain host genes, notably, the 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) receptor 2C (5-HT2CR). Dysfunction of 5-HT2CR has been linked to the pathology of several human mental conditions, such as Schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar disorder, major depression, and the mental illnesses of substance use disorders (SUD). Thus, the ADAR-1-mediated RNA editing may be either beneficial or harmful; these effects need to be tightly modulated to sustain innate antiviral immunity while restricting undesired off-target self-reactivity. In this communication, we discuss ideas and tools to identify the orphan drug candidates, including small molecules and biologics that may serve as effective modulators of the ADAR-1/IFN innate immunity and are thereby promising for use in treating or preventing SUD- and/or viral infection-associated mental illnesses.
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