Intensive research interest has focused on small RNA-processing machinery and the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), key cellular machines in RNAi pathways. However, the structural mechanism regarding RISC assembly, the primary step linking small RNA processing and RNA-mediated gene silencing, is largely unknown. Human RNA helicase A (DHX9) was reported to function as an RISC-loading factor, and such function is mediated mainly by its dsRNA-binding domains (dsRBDs). Here, we report the crystal structures of human RNA helicase A (RHA) dsRBD1 and dsRBD2 domains in complex with dsRNAs, respectively. Structural analysis not only reveals higher siRNA duplex-binding affinity displayed by dsRBD1, but also identifies a crystallographic dsRBD1 pair of physiological significance in cooperatively recognizing dsRNAs. Structural observations are further validated by isothermal titration calorimetric (ITC) assay. Moreover, co-immunoprecipitation (co-IP) assay coupled with mutagenesis demonstrated that both dsRBDs are required for RISC association, and such association is mediated by dsRNA. Hence, our structural and functional efforts have revealed a potential working model for siRNA recognition by RHA tandem dsRBDs, and together they provide direct structural insights into RISC assembly facilitated by RHA.
RNA interference (RNAi) is an endogenous RNA-destruction phenomenon induced by certain double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs). In RNAi, dsRNAs are processed into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) which in turn trigger the cleavage of the target mRNA. Here, using a short hairpin RNA-expression library, we identified a DEAD-box helicase 3, DDX3, as an essential factor involved in RNAi pathway and revealed that DDX3 is colocalized with Ago2, an essential factor in RNAi pathway that cleaves target mRNA. Results of experiments with a dominant negative mutant of DDX3 further confirmed that this factor affects the RNAi activity. Together, DDX3 functions to assure mammalian RNAi pathway. Together, our results indicate that DDX3 is a new key molecule to understand the molecular mechanism underlying RNAi pathway in mammals.
DEAD-box helicases catalyze the ATP-dependent unwinding of RNA duplexes. They share a helicase core formed by two RecA-like domains that carries a set of conserved motifs contributing to ATP binding and hydrolysis, RNA binding and duplex unwinding. The translation initiation factor eIF4A is the founding member of the DEAD-box protein family, and one of the few examples of DEAD-box proteins that consist of a helicase core only. It is an RNA-stimulated ATPase and a non-processive helicase that unwinds short RNA duplexes. In the catalytic cycle, a series of conformational changes couples the nucleotide cycle to RNA unwinding.
eIF4A has been considered a paradigm for DEAD-box proteins, and studies of its function have revealed the governing principles underlying the DEAD-box helicase mechanism. However, as an isolated helicase core, eIF4A is rather the exception, not the rule. Most helicase modules in other DEAD-box proteins are modified, some by insertions into the RecA-like domains, and the majority by N- and C-terminal appendages. While the basic catalytic function resides within the helicase core, its modulation by insertions, additional domains or a network of interaction partners generates the diversity of DEAD-box protein functions in the cell. This review summarizes the current knowledge on eIF4A and its regulation, and discusses to what extent eIF4A serves as a model DEAD-box protein.
translation initiation; DEAD-box helicase; RNA unwinding; ATP-driven conformational changes
Small double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) of approximately 21-nucleotides in size, referred to as small interfering RNA (siRNA) duplexes, can induce sequence-specific posttranscriptional gene silencing, or RNA interference (RNAi). Since chemically synthesized siRNA duplexes were found to induce RNAi in mammalian cells, RNAi has become a powerful reverse genetic tool for suppressing the expression of a gene of interest in mammals, including human, and its application has been expanding to various fields. Recent studies further suggest that synthetic siRNA duplexes have the potential for specifically inhibiting the expression of an allele of interest without suppressing the expression of other alleles, i.e., siRNA duplexes likely confer allele-specific silencing. Such gene silencing by RNAi is an advanced technique with very promising applications. In this review, I would like to discuss the potential utility of allele-specific silencing by RNAi as a therapeutic method for dominantly inherited diseases, and describe possible improvements in siRNA duplexes for enhancing their efficacy.
RNAi; allele-specific silencing; siRNA selection; dominantly inherited disease; nucleotide variation; allele discrimination; siRNA modification; forked siRNA
The mechanism of RNAi is well described in metazoans where it plays a role in diverse cellular functions. However, although different classes of endogenous small RNAs (esRNAs) have been identified in fungi, their biological roles are poorly described due, in part, to the lack of phenotype of mutants affected in the biogenesis of these esRNAs. Argonaute proteins are one of the key components of the RNAi pathways, in which different members of this protein family participate in the biogenesis of a wide repertoire of esRNAs molecules. Here we identified three argonaute genes of the fungus Mucor circinelloides and investigated their participation in exogenous and endogenous RNAi. We found that only one of the ago genes, ago-1, is involved in RNAi during vegetative growth and is required for both transgene-induced RNA silencing and the accumulation of distinct classes of esRNAs derived from exons (ex-siRNAs). Classes I and II ex-siRNAs bind to Ago-1 to control mRNA accumulation of the target protein coding genes. Class III ex-siRNAs do not specifically bind to Ago-1, but requires this protein for their production, revealing the complexity of the biogenesis pathways of ex-siRNAs. We also show that ago-1 is involved in the response to environmental signals, since vegetative development and autolysis induced by nutritional stress are affected in ago-1−
M. circinelloides mutants. Our results demonstrate that a single Ago protein participates in the production of different classes of esRNAs that are generated through different pathways. They also highlight the role of ex-siRNAs in the regulation of endogenous genes in fungi and expand the range of biological functions modulated by RNAi.
In many eukaryotes, RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRPs) play key roles in the RNAi pathway. They have been implicated in the recognition and processing of aberrant transcripts triggering the process, and in amplification of the silencing response. We have tested the functions of RdRP genes from the ciliate Paramecium tetraurelia in experimentally induced and endogenous mechanisms of gene silencing. In this organism, RNAi can be triggered either by high-copy, truncated transgenes or by directly feeding cells with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). Surprisingly, dsRNA-induced silencing depends on the putatively functional RDR1 and RDR2 genes, which are required for the accumulation of both primary siRNAs and a distinct class of small RNAs suggestive of secondary siRNAs. In contrast, a third gene with a highly divergent catalytic domain, RDR3, is required for siRNA accumulation when RNAi is triggered by truncated transgenes. Our data further implicate RDR3 in the accumulation of previously described endogenous siRNAs and in the regulation of the surface antigen gene family. While only one of these genes is normally expressed in any clonal cell line, the knockdown of RDR3 leads to co-expression of multiple antigens. These results provide evidence for a functional specialization of Paramecium RdRP genes in distinct RNAi pathways operating during vegetative growth.
RNA interference (RNAi) utilizes small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to direct silencing of specific genes through transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms. The siRNA guides can originate from exogenous (exo–RNAi) or natural endogenous (endo–RNAi) sources of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). In Caenorhabditis elegans, inactivation of genes that function in the endo–RNAi pathway can result in enhanced silencing of genes targeted by siRNAs from exogenous sources, indicating cross-regulation between the pathways. Here we show that members of another small RNA pathway, the mir-35-41 cluster of microRNAs (miRNAs) can regulate RNAi. In worms lacking miR-35-41, there is reduced expression of lin-35/Rb, the C. elegans homolog of the tumor suppressor Retinoblastoma gene, previously shown to regulate RNAi responsiveness. Genome-wide microarray analyses show that targets of endo–siRNAs are up-regulated in mir-35-41 mutants, a phenotype also displayed by lin-35/Rb mutants. Furthermore, overexpression of lin-35/Rb specifically rescues the RNAi hypersensitivity of mir-35-41 mutants. Although the mir-35-41 miRNAs appear to be exclusively expressed in germline and embryos, their effect on RNAi sensitivity is transmitted to multiple tissues and stages of development. Additionally, we demonstrate that maternal contribution of miR-35-41 or lin-35/Rb is sufficient to reduce RNAi effectiveness in progeny worms. Our results reveal that miRNAs can broadly regulate other small RNA pathways and, thus, have far reaching effects on gene expression beyond directly targeting specific mRNAs.
RNA interference (RNAi) has become a widely used approach for silencing genes of interest. This tool is possible because endogenous RNA silencing pathways exist broadly across organisms, including humans, worms, and plants. The general RNAi pathway utilizes small ∼21-nucleotide RNAs to target specific protein-coding genes through base-pairing interactions. Since RNAs from exogenous sources require some of the same factors as endogenous small RNAs to silence gene expression, there can be competition between the pathways. Thus, perturbations in the endogenous RNAi pathway can result in enhanced silencing efficiency by exogenous small RNAs. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) comprise another endogenous small RNA pathway, but their biogenesis and mechanism of gene silencing are distinct in many ways from RNAi pathways. Here we show that a family of miRNAs regulates the effectiveness of RNAi in Caenorhabditis elegans. Loss of mir-35-41 results in enhanced RNAi by exogenous RNAs and reduced silencing of endogenous RNAi targets. The embryonic miR-35-41 miRNAs regulate the sensitivity to RNAi through lin-35/Rb, a homolog of the human Retinoblastoma tumor suppressor gene previously shown to regulate RNAi effectiveness in C. elegans. Additionally, we show that this sensitivity can be passed on to the next generation of worms, demonstrating a far-reaching effect of the miR-35-41 miRNAs on gene regulation by other small RNA pathways.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful technology with huge applications for functional genomics, target identification in drug discovery and elucidation
of molecular signaling pathways. Current RNAi studies have demonstrated the clinical potential of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) in metabolic diseases,
cancer, AIDS, malaria, neurodegenerative disorders, dental diseases and other illnesses. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that the small RNA
molecules, either indigenously produced as microRNAs (miRNAs) or exogenously administered synthetic dsRNAs could effectively activate a particular gene
in a sequence specific manner instead of silencing it. This novel, but still uncharacterized, phenomenon has been termed as RNA activation (RNAa). The
paradoxical concept of Yin and Yang, which describe two primal opposing but complementary principles, can potentially be applied to elucidate the complex
phenomenon of RNAa/RNAi in the RNAome. This warrants a proper understanding of the RNAi/RNAa molecular pathways in living organisms before any of the small
dsRNAs can potentially be exploited for therapeutics in human beings.
RNA interference; RNA activation; Yin and Yang; RNAome; small interfering RNA; gene silencing; functional genomics; drug discovery; therapeutics
Self-complementary RNA transcripts form a double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that triggers a sequence-specific mRNA degradation, in a process known as RNA interference (RNAi), leading to gene silencing. In vascular plants, RNAi molecules trafficking occur between cells and systemically throughout the plant. RNAi signals can spread systemically throughout a plant, even across graft junctions from transgenic to non-transgenic stocks. There is also a great interest in applying RNAi to pathogenic fungi. Specific inhibition of gene expression by RNAi has been shown to be suitable for a multitude of phytopathogenic filamentous fungi. However, double-stranded (ds)RNA/small interfering (si)RNA silencing effect has not been observed in vivo.
This study demonstrates for the first time the in vivo interference phenomenon in the pathogenic fungus Fusarium verticillioides, in which expression of an individual fungal transgene was specifically abolished by inoculating mycelial cells in transgenic tobacco plants engineered to express siRNAs from a dsRNA corresponding to the particular transgene.
The results provide a powerful tool for further studies on molecular plant-microbe and symbiotic interactions. From a biotechnological perspective, silencing of fungal genes by generating siRNAs in the host provides a novel strategy for the development of broad fungi-resistance strategies in plants and other organisms.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a mechanism that regulates genes by either transcriptional (TGS) or posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS), required for genome maintenance and proper development of an organism. Small non-coding RNAs are the key players in RNAi and have been intensively studied in eukaryotes. In plants, several classes of small RNAs with specific sizes and dedicated functions have evolved. The major classes of small RNAs include microRNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which differ in their biogenesis. miRNAs are synthesized from a short hairpin structure while siRNAs are derived from long double-stranded RNAs (dsRNA). Both miRNA and siRNAs control the expression of cognate target RNAs by binding to reverse complementary sequences mediating cleavage or translational inhibition of the target RNA. They also act on the DNA and cause epigenetic changes such as DNA methylation and histone modifications. In the last years, the analysis of plant RNAi pathways was extended to the bryophyte Physcomitrella patens, a non-flowering, non-vascular ancient land plant that diverged from the lineage of seed plants approximately 450 million years ago. Based on a number of characteristic features and its phylogenetic key position in land plant evolution P. patens emerged as a plant model species to address basic as well as applied topics in plant biology. Here we summarize the current knowledge on the role of RNAi in P. patens that shows functional overlap with RNAi pathways from seed plants, and also unique features specific to this species.
RNAi; non-coding RNAs; miRNA; siRNA; gene silencing; Physcomitrella patens
Helicases play essential roles in many cellular processes including replication, transcription and translation. Most helicases translocate along one strand of the duplex while displacing the complementary strand (of either DNA or RNA). Thus, helicases have directionality. They move along nucleic acids in either the 3'→ 5' or 5'→ 3' direction. The directionality of helicases with low activity or of those that cannot initiate duplex unwinding from a substrate that contains only one single-stranded overhang region is difficult to determine.
An improved assay to determine helicase directionality was developed that uses a substrate containing biotinylated oligonucleotides. As a proof of concept, it was shown that the substrates substantially improve helicase activity and directionality determination for several DNA helicases in comparison to more traditional substrates. In addition, a universal substrate that can be used to determine the directionality of both 3'→ 5' and 5'→ 3' helicases was developed.
It is shown here that the use of a biotin-streptavidin complex as a helicase substrate improves helicase activity and the determination of helicase directionality. The method described is simpler that the currently available techniques.
Expression of dsRNA complementary to small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) in Trypanosoma brucei results in snoRNA silencing, termed snoRNAi. Here, we demonstrate that snoRNAi requires the nuclear TbDCL2 protein, but not TbDCL1, which is involved in RNA interference (RNAi) in the cytoplasm. snoRNAi depends on Argonaute1 (Slicer), and on TbDCL2, suggesting that snoRNA dicing and slicing takes place in the nucleus, and further suggesting that AGO1 is active in nuclear silencing. snoRNAi was next utilized to elucidate the function of an abundant snoRNA, TB11Cs2C2 (92 nt), present in a cluster together with the spliced leader associated RNA (SLA1) and snR30, which are both H/ACA RNAs with special nuclear functions. Using AMT-UV cross-linking and RNaseH cleavage, we provide evidence for the interaction of TB11Cs2C2 with the small rRNAs, srRNA-2 and srRNA-6, which are part of the large subunit (LSU) rRNA. snoRNAi of TB11Cs2C2 resulted in defects in generating srRNA-2 and LSUβ rRNA. This is the first snoRNA described so far to engage in trypanosome-specific processing events.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a post-transcriptional silencing process, triggered by double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), leading to the destabilization of homologous mRNAs. A distinction has been made between endogenous RNAi–related pathways and the exogenous RNAi pathway, the latter being essential for the experimental use of RNAi. Previous studies have shown that, in Caenorhabditis elegans, a complex containing the enzymes Dicer and the Argonaute RDE-1 process dsRNA. Dicer is responsible for cleaving dsRNA into short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) while RDE-1 acts as the siRNA acceptor. RDE-1 then guides a multi-protein complex to homologous targets to trigger mRNA destabilization. However, endogenous role(s) for RDE-1, if any, have remained unexplored. We here show that RDE-1 functions as a scavenger protein, taking up small RNA molecules from many different sources, including the microRNA (miRNA) pathway. This is in striking contrast to Argonaute proteins functioning directly in the miRNA pathway, ALG-1 and ALG-2: these proteins exclusively bind miRNAs. While playing no significant role in the biogenesis of the main pool of miRNAs, RDE-1 binds endogenous miRNAs and triggers RdRP activity on at least one perfectly matching, endogenous miRNA target. The resulting secondary siRNAs are taken up by a set of Argonaute proteins known to act as siRNA acceptors in exogenous RNAi, resulting in strong mRNA destabilization. Our results show that RDE-1 in an endogenous setting is actively screening the transcriptome using many different small RNAs, including miRNAs, as a guide, with implications for the evolution of transcripts with a potential to be recognized by Dicer.
Due to its intrinsic characteristics, RNA interference (RNAi) has become one of the most widely used tools in cell biology and has revolutionized approaches to elucidate gene function. The process, also known as RNA silencing, is triggered by dsRNA molecules that are cleaved by Dicer proteins into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). The rde-1 gene from Caenorhabditis elegans was one of the first genes found in association with this mechanism and encodes the only Argonaute protein in worms, which is by itself essential for the classical RNAi pathway triggered by exogenously introduced dsRNA. However, little is known about endogenous functions of RDE-1. Here we show that RDE-1 binds to many classes of small RNAs, including microRNAs. We show that miR-243 is efficiently bound by RDE-1 and triggers regular RNAi on an endogenous target, implying that many RNA species, including miRNAs, are constantly being screened against the transcriptome using the canonical exogenous RNAi pathway.
Gene silencing by RNA triggers is an ancient, evolutionarily conserved, and widespread phenomenon. This process, known as RNA interference (RNAi), occurs when double-stranded RNA helices induce cleavage of their complementary mRNAs. Because these RNA molecules can be introduced exogenously as small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), RNAi has become an everyday experimental tool in laboratory research. In addition, the number of RNA-based therapeutics that are currently in clinical trials for a variety of human diseases demonstrate the therapeutic potential of RNAi.
In this Account, we focus on our current understanding of the structure and function of various classes of RNAi triggers and how this knowledge has contributed to our understanding of the biogenesis and catalytic functions of siRNA and microRNA in mammalian cells. Mechanistic studies to understand the structure and function of small RNAs that induce RNAi have illuminated broad functions of the ancient RNAi machinery in animals and plants. In addition, such studies have provided insight to identify endogenous physiological gene silencing RNA triggers that engage functional machineries similar to siRNAs. Several endogenous small RNA species have been identified: small noncoding RNAs (microRNAs), piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), and endogenous siRNAs (endo-siRNAs). microRNAs are the most widespread class of small RNAs in mammalian cells. Despite their importance in biology and medicine, the molecular and cellular mechanisms of microRNA biogenesis and function are not fully understood. We provide an overview of the current understanding of how these molecules are synthesized within cells and how they act on gene targets. Interesting questions remain both for understanding the effects of modifications and editing on microRNAs and the interactions between microRNAs and other cellular RNAs such as long noncoding RNAs.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a positive-strand RNA virus that encodes a helicase required for viral replication. Although HCV does not replicate through a DNA intermediate, HCV helicase unwinds both RNA and DNA duplexes. An X-ray crystal structure of the HCV helicase complexed with (dU)8 has been solved, and the substrate-amino acids interactions within the catalytic pocket were shown. Among these, residues W501 and V432 were reported to have base stacking interactions and to be important for the unwinding function of HCV helicase. It has been hypothesized that specific interactions between the enzyme and substrate in the catalytic pocket are responsible for the substrate specificity phenotype. We therefore mutagenized W501 and V432 to investigate their role in substrate specificity in HCV helicase. Replacement of W501, but not V432, with nonaromatic residues resulted in complete loss of RNA unwinding activity, whereas DNA unwinding activity was largely unaffected. The loss of unwinding activity was fully restored in the W501F mutant, indicating that the aromatic ring is crucial for RNA helicase function. Analysis of ATPase and nucleic acid binding activities in the W501 mutant enzymes revealed that these activities are not directly responsible for the substrate specificity phenotype. Molecular modeling of the enzyme-substrate interaction at W501 revealed a putative π-facial hydrogen bond between the 2′-OH of ribose and the aromatic tryptophan ring. This evidence correlates with biochemical results suggesting that the π-facial bond may play an important role in the RNA unwinding activity of the HCV NS3 protein.
Small RNA molecules of about 20 to 30 nucleotides function in gene regulation and genomic defense via conserved eukaryotic RNA interference (RNAi)-related pathways. The RNAi machinery consists of three core components: Dicer, Argonaute, and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. In fungi, the RNAi-related pathways have three major functions: genomic defense, heterochromatin formation, and gene regulation. Studies of Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Neurospora, and other fungi have uncovered surprisingly diverse small RNA biogenesis pathways, suggesting that fungi utilize RNAi-related pathways in various cellular processes to adapt to different environmental conditions. These studies also provided important insights into how RNAi functions in eukaryotic systems in general. In this review, we will discuss our current understanding of the fungal RNAi-related pathways and their functions, with a focus on filamentous fungi. We will also discuss how RNAi can be used as a tool in fungal research.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a well-conserved mechanism that uses small noncoding RNAs to silence gene expression posttranscriptionally. Gene regulation by RNAi is now recognized as one of the major regulatory pathways in eukaryotic cells. Although the main components of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have been identified, the molecular mechanisms regulating the activity of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have only begun to emerge within the last couple of years. Recently, high-throughput reporter assays to monitor the activity of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have been developed and used for proof-of-concept pilot screens. Both inhibitors and activators of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have been found. Although still in its infancy, a chemical biology approach using high-throughput chemical screens should open up a new avenue for dissecting the RNAi/miRNA pathway, as well as developing novel RNAi- or miRNA-based therapeutic interventions.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a eukaryotic gene-silencing mechanism that functions in antiviral immunity in diverse organisms. To combat RNAi-mediated immunity, viruses encode viral suppressors of RNA silencing (VSRs) that target RNA and protein components in the RNAi machinery. Although the endonuclease Dicer plays key roles in RNAi immunity, little is known about how VSRs target Dicer. Here, we show that the B2 protein from Wuhan nodavirus (WhNV), the counterpart of Flock House virus (FHV), suppresses Drosophila melanogaster RNAi by directly interacting with Dicer-2 (Dcr-2) and sequestering double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and small interfering RNA (siRNA). Further investigations reveal that WhNV B2 binds to the RNase III and Piwi-Argonaut-Zwille (PAZ) domains of Dcr-2 via its C-terminal region, thereby blocking the activities of Dcr-2 in processing dsRNA and incorporating siRNA into the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). Moreover, we uncover an interrelationship among diverse activities of WhNV B2, showing that RNA binding enhances the B2–Dcr-2 interaction by promoting B2 homodimerization. Taken together, our findings establish a model of suppression of Drosophila RNAi by WhNV B2 targeting both Dcr-2 and RNA and provide evidence that an interrelationship exists among diverse activities of VSRs to antagonize RNAi.
In the past few years, the discovery of RNA-mediated gene
silencing mechanisms, like RNA interference (RNAi), has
revolutionized our understanding of eukaryotic gene expression.
These mechanisms are activated by double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and
mediate gene silencing either by inducing the sequence-specific
degradation of complementary mRNA or by inhibiting mRNA
translation. RNAi now provides a powerful experimental tool to
elucidate gene function in vitro and in vivo, thereby opening new
exciting perspectives in the fields of molecular analysis and
eventually therapy of several diseases such as infections and
cancer. In hematology, numerous studies have described the
successful application of RNAi to better define the role of
oncogenic fusion proteins in leukemogenesis and to explore
therapeutic approaches in hematological malignancies. In this
review, we highlight recent advances and caveats relating to the
application of this powerful new methodology to hematopoiesis.
Until just a few years ago, RNA interference (RNAi) technology was restricted to the research fields of plants, C. elegans or Drosophila. The discovery of gene silencing by in vitro synthesized double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) in mammalian cells has made the use of RNAi possible in nearly the entire life science kingdom. DNA vectors delivering small interfering RNA (siRNA) directed by polymerase III or polymerase II promoters to persistently inhibit target genes expression have extended this technology to study in vivo function of these genes. Recently, RNAi has been used as a powerful tool in the functional analysis of nuclear receptors and their coregulators. This short review will cover studies in this area.
Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and genome-encoded microRNAs (miRNAs) silence genes via complementary interactions with mRNAs. With thousands of miRNA genes identified and genome sequences of diverse eukaryotes available for comparison, the opportunity emerges for insights into origin and evolution of RNA interference (RNAi). The miRNA repertoires of plants and animals appear to have evolved independently. However, conservation of the key proteins involved in RNAi suggests that the last common ancestor of modern eukaryotes possessed siRNA-based mechanisms. Prokaryotes have a RNAi-like defense system that is functionally analogous but not homologous to eukaryotic RNAi. The protein machinery of eukaryotic RNAi seems to have been pieced together from ancestral proteins of archaeal, bacterial and phage origins that are involved in DNA repair and RNA-processing pathways.
RNA interference (RNAi) is an evolutionary conserved mechanism by which small double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) – termed small interfering RNA (siRNA) – inhibits translation or degrades complementary mRNA sequences. Identifying features and enzymatic components of the RNAi pathway have led to the design of highly-effective siRNA molecules for laboratory and therapeutic application. RNA activation (RNAa) is a newly discovered mechanism of gene induction also triggered by dsRNAs termed small activating RNA (saRNA). It offers similar benefits as RNA interference (RNAi), while representing a new method of gene overexpression. In the present study, we identify features of RNAa and explore chemical modifications to saRNAs that improve the applicability of RNAa. We evaluate the rate of RNAa activity in order to define an optimal window of gene induction, while comparing the kinetic differences between RNAa and RNAi. We identify Ago2 as a conserved enzymatic component of both RNAa and RNAi implicating that saRNA may tolerate modification based on Ago2 function. As such, we define chemical modifications to saRNAs that manipulate RNAa activity, as well as exploit their effects to design saRNAs with enhanced medicinal properties. These findings reveal functional features of RNAa that may be utilized to augment saRNA function for mechanistic studies or the development of RNAa-based drugs.
Argonaute 2 (Ago2); cancer therapeutics; E-cadherin; gene promoter; p21; RNA activation (RNAa); RNA interference (RNAi); small activating RNA (saRNA); small interfering RNA (siRNA); strand modifications
When recognized by the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway, double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) produced in eukaryotic cells results in posttranscriptional gene silencing. In addition, dsRNA can trigger the interferon response as part of the immune response in vertebrates. In this study, we show that dsRNA, but not short interfering RNA (siRNA), induces the expression of qde-2 (an Argonaute gene) and dcl-2 (a Dicer gene), two central components of the RNAi pathway in the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa. The induction of QDE-2 by dsRNA is required for normal gene silencing, indicating that this is a regulatory mechanism that allows the optimal function of the RNAi pathway. In addition, we demonstrate that Dicer proteins (DCLs) regulate QDE-2 posttranscriptionally, suggesting a role for DCLs or siRNA in QDE-2 accumulation. Finally, a genome-wide search revealed that additional RNAi components and homologs of antiviral and interferon-stimulated genes are also dsRNA-activated genes in Neurospora. Together, our results suggest that the activation of the RNAi components is part of a broad ancient host defense response against viral and transposon infections.
The discovery of RNA interference (RNAi) in C. elegans and in plants has revolutionized current approaches to biology and medicine. RNAi silences genes in a sequence-specific manner through the actions of small pieces of double-stranded RNAs (siRNAs and miRNAs). RNAi has been found as a widespread natural phenomenon in eukaryotic cells and is also being used as a powerful experimental tool to explore gene function. Most importantly, it has many potential therapeutic applications. Viral gene-specific siRNAs are theoretically very promising antiviral inhibitors and have been examined in a broad range of medically important viruses. However, many RNA viruses escape RNAi-mediated suppression by counteracting the RNAi machinery through mutation of the targeted region, by encoding viral suppressors, or both. DNA viruses also counteract the RNAi machinery, preferentially using viral suppressors. Cellular factors may also contribute to RNAi resistance; ADAR1 was the first cellular factor found to be responsible for editing-mediated RNAi resistance. Because siRNAs can be used as potent small-molecule inhibitors of any cellular gene, the best way for a cell to maintain expression of essential genes for its long-term survival is to develop a program to resist the detrimental effects of RNAi.
RNA interference; siRNA; miRNA; gene expression; viral inhibitors; gene therapies
RNA silencing pathways play critical roles in gene regulation, virus infection, and transposon control. RNA interference (RNAi) is mediated by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which are liberated from double-stranded (ds)RNA precursors by Dicer and guide the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) to targets. Although principles governing small RNA sorting into RISC have been uncovered, the spectrum of RNA species that can be targeted by Dicer proteins, particularly the viral RNAs present during an infection, are poorly understood. Dicer-2 potently restricts viral infection in insects by generating virus-derived siRNAs from viral RNA. To better characterize the substrates of Dicer-2, we examined the virus-derived siRNAs produced during the Drosophila antiviral RNAi response to four different viruses using high-throughput sequencing. We found that each virus was uniquely targeted by the RNAi pathway; dicing substrates included dsRNA replication intermediates and intramolecular RNA stem loops. For instance, a putative intergenic RNA hairpin encoded by Rift Valley Fever virus generates abundant small RNAs in both Drosophila and mosquito cells, while repetitive sequences within the genomic termini of Vaccinia virus, which give rise to abundant small RNAs in Drosophila, were found to be transcribed in both insect and mammalian cells. Moreover, we provide evidence that the RNA species targeted by Dicer-2 can be modulated by the presence of a viral suppressor of RNAi. This study uncovered several novel, heavily targeted features within viral genomes, offering insight into viral replication, viral immune evasion strategies, and the mechanism of antiviral RNAi.