Slicing-Independent RISC Activation Requires the Argonaute PAZ Domain

Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
Current biology: CB (Impact Factor: 9.57). 07/2012; 22(16):1536-42. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.06.040
Source: PubMed


Small RNAs regulate genetic networks through a ribonucleoprotein complex called the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), which, in mammals, contains at its center one of four Argonaute proteins (Ago1-Ago4). A key regulatory event in the RNA interference (RNAi) and microRNA (miRNA) pathways is Ago loading, wherein double-stranded small-RNA duplexes are incorporated into RISC (pre-RISC) and then become single-stranded (mature RISC), a process that is not well understood. The Agos contain an evolutionarily conserved PAZ (Piwi/Argonaute/Zwille) domain whose primary function is to bind the 3' end of small RNAs. We created multiple PAZ-domain-disrupted mutant Ago proteins and studied their biochemical properties and biological functionality in cells. We found that the PAZ domain is dispensable for Ago loading of slicing-competent RISC. In contrast, in the absence of slicer activity or slicer-substrate duplex RNAs, PAZ-disrupted Agos bound duplex small interfering RNAs, but were unable to unwind or eject the passenger strand and form functional RISC complexes. We have discovered that the highly conserved PAZ domain plays an important role in RISC activation, providing new mechanistic insights into how miRNAs regulate genes, as well as new insights for future design of miRNA- and RNAi-based therapeutics.

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    • "Recently, it was reported that PAZ domain is essential in RNAi process. PAZ-disrupted Ago mutants were unable to unwind or eject the passenger strand of miRNA-like mismatch-containing duplexes [21]. "
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    ABSTRACT: RNA silencing refers to a collection of gene regulatory mechanisms that use small RNAs for sequence specific repression. These mechanisms rely on ARGONAUTE (AGO) proteins that directly bind small RNAs and thereby constitute the central component of the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). AGO protein function has been probed extensively by mutational analyses, particularly in plants where large allelic series of several AGO proteins have been isolated. Structures of entire human and yeast AGO proteins have only very recently been obtained, and they allow more precise analyses of functional consequences of mutations obtained by forward genetics. To a large extent, these analyses support current models of regions of particular functional importance of AGO proteins. Interestingly, they also identify previously unrecognized parts of AGO proteins with profound structural and functional importance and provide the first hints at structural elements that have important functions specific to individual AGO family members. A particularly important outcome of the analysis concerns the evidence for existence of Gly-Trp (GW) repeat interactors of AGO proteins acting in the plant microRNA pathway. The parallel analysis of AGO structures and plant AGO mutations also suggests that such interactions with GW proteins may be a determinant of whether an endonucleolytically competent RISC is formed.
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    ABSTRACT: Structural studies indicate that binding of both the guide RNA (siRNA and miRNA) and the target mRNA trigger substantial conformational changes in the Argonaute proteins. Here we explore the role of the N-terminal lobe (and its PAZ domain) in these conformational changes using biochemical and cell culture-based approaches. In vitro, whereas deletion (or mutation) of the N-terminal lobe of DmAgo1 and DmAgo2 had no effect on binding affinity to guide RNAs, we observed a loss of protection of the 3′ end of the guide RNA and decreased target RNA binding; consistent with this, in cells, loss of function DmAgo1 PAZ variant proteins (PAZ6 and ΔN-PAZ) still bind RNA, although the RNAs are shorter than normal. We also find that deletion of the N-terminal lobe results in constitutive activation of endogenous PIWI domain-based cleavage activity in vitro, providing insights into how cleavage activity may be regulated in vivo in response to different types of pairing interactions with the target mRNAs.
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