A protein sensor for siRNA asymmetry

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.
Science (Impact Factor: 31.48). 12/2004; 306(5700):1377-80. DOI: 10.1126/science.1102755
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To act as guides in the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) must be unwound into their component strands, then assembled with proteins to form the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), which catalyzes target messenger RNA cleavage. Thermodynamic differences in the base-pairing stabilities of the 5' ends of the two approximately 21-nucleotide siRNA strands determine which siRNA strand is assembled into the RISC. We show that in Drosophila, the orientation of the Dicer-2/R2D2 protein heterodimer on the siRNA duplex determines which siRNA strand associates with the core RISC protein Argonaute 2. R2D2 binds the siRNA end with the greatest double-stranded character, thereby orienting the heterodimer on the siRNA duplex. Strong R2D2 binding requires a 5'-phosphate on the siRNA strand that is excluded from the RISC. Thus, R2D2 is both a protein sensor for siRNA thermodynamic asymmetry and a licensing factor for entry of authentic siRNAs into the RNAi pathway.

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    ABSTRACT: In plants and animals, a large number of double-stranded RNA binding proteins (DRBs) have been shown to act as non-catalytic cofactors of DICERs and to participate in the biogenesis of small RNAs involved in RNA silencing. We have previously shown that the loss of Arabidopsis thaliana's DRB2 protein results in a significant increase in the population of RNA polymerase IV (p4) dependent siRNAs, which are involved in the RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) process. Surprisingly, despite this observation, we show in this work that DRB2 is part of a high molecular weight complex that does not involve RdDM actors but several chromatin regulator proteins, such as MSI4, PRMT4B and HDA19. We show that DRB2 can bind transposable element (TE) transcripts in vivo but that drb2 mutants do not have a significant variation in TE DNA methylation. We propose that DRB2 is part of a repressive epigenetic regulator complex involved in a negative feedback loop, adjusting epigenetic state to transcription level at TE loci, in parallel of the RdDM pathway. Loss of DRB2 would mainly result in an increased production of TE transcripts, readily converted in p4-siRNAs by the RdDM machinery.
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