Article

Bacterial argonaute samples the transcriptome to identify foreign DNA.

Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, 147-75, 1200E California Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
Molecular cell (Impact Factor: 14.46). 09/2013; 51(5):594-605. DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2013.08.014
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Eukaryotic Argonautes bind small RNAs and use them as guides to find complementary RNA targets and induce gene silencing. Though homologs of eukaryotic Argonautes are present in many bacteria and archaea, their small RNA partners and functions are unknown. We found that the Argonaute of Rhodobacter sphaeroides (RsAgo) associates with 15-19 nt RNAs that correspond to the majority of transcripts. RsAgo also binds single-stranded 22-24 nt DNA molecules that are complementary to the small RNAs and enriched in sequences derived from exogenous plasmids as well as genome-encoded foreign nucleic acids such as transposons and phage genes. Expression of RsAgo in the heterologous E. coli system leads to formation of plasmid-derived small RNA and DNA and plasmid degradation. In a R. sphaeroides mutant lacking RsAgo, expression of plasmid-encoded genes is elevated. Our results indicate that RNAi-related processes found in eukaryotes are also conserved in bacteria and target foreign nucleic acids.

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    ABSTRACT: Effective silencing by RNA-interference (RNAi) depends on mechanisms that amplify and propagate the silencing signal. In some organisms, small-interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are amplified from target mRNAs by RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP). Both RdRP recruitment and mRNA silencing require Argonaute proteins, which are generally thought to degrade RNAi targets by directly cleaving them. However, in C. elegans, the enzymatic activity of the primary Argonaute, RDE-1, is not required for silencing activity. We show that RDE-1 can instead recruit an endoribonuclease, RDE-8, to target RNA. RDE-8 can cleave RNA in vitro and is needed for the production of 3' uridylated fragments of target mRNA in vivo. We also find that RDE-8 promotes RdRP activity, thereby ensuring amplification of siRNAs. Together, our findings suggest a model in which RDE-8 cleaves target mRNAs to mediate silencing, while generating 3' uridylated mRNA fragments to serve as templates for the RdRP-directed amplification of the silencing signal. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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    ABSTRACT: When a field shares the consensus that a particular phenomenon does NOT occur, this may reflect extensive experimental investigations with negative outcomes, or may represent the ¿common sense¿ position based on current knowledge and established ways of thinking. The current consensus of the RNA field is that eukaryotic Argonaute (Ago) proteins employ RNA guides and target other RNAs. The alternative -- that eukaryotic Ago has biologically important interactions with DNA in vivo ¿ has not been seriously considered, in part because the only role contemplated for DNA was as a guide strand, and in part because it did not seem plausible that any natural source of suitable DNAs exists in eukaryotic cells. However, eukaryotic Argonaute domains bind DNA in the test tube, and several articles report that small inhibitory double-stranded DNAs do have the ability to silence target RNAs in a sequence-dependent (though poorly characterized) manner. A search of the literature identified potential DNA binding partners for Ago, including (among others) single-stranded DNAs residing in extracellular vesicles, and cytoplasmic satellite-repeat DNA fragments that are associated with the plasma membrane and transcribed by Pol II. It is interesting to note that both cytoplasmic and extracellular vesicle DNA are expressed at greatly elevated levels in cancer cells relative to normal cells. In such a pathological scenario, if not under normal conditions, there may be appreciable binding of Ago to DNA despite its lower affinity compared to RNA. If so, DNA might displace Ago from binding to its normal partners (miRNAs, siRNAs and other short ncRNAs), disrupting tightly controlled post-transcriptional gene silencing processes that are vital to correct functioning of a normal cell. The possible contribution to cancer pathogenesis is a strong motivator for further investigation of Ago-DNA binding. More generally, this case underscores the need for better informatics tools to allow investigators to analyze the state of a given scientific question at a high-level and to identify possible new research directions.ReviewersThis article was reviewed by Eugene Koonin, Kira S. Makarova, Alexander Maxwell Burroughs (nominated by L Aravind), and Isidore Rigoutsos.Open peer reviewReviewed by Eugene Koonin, Kira S. Makarova, Alexander Maxwell Burroughs (nominated by L Aravind), and Isidore Rigoutsos. For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers¿ comments section.
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