On the origin and functions of RNA-mediated silencing

From protists to man

Heriberto D Cerutti, J. Armando Casas-Mollano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

319 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Double-stranded RNA has been shown to induce gene silencing in diverse eukaryotes and by a variety of pathways. We have examined the taxonomic distribution and the phylogenetic relationship of key components of the RNA interference (RNAi) machinery in members of five eukaryotic supergroups. On the basis of the parsimony principle, our analyses suggest that a relatively complex RNAi machinery was already present in the last common ancestor of eukaryotes and consisted, at a minimum, of one Argonaute-like polypeptide, one Piwi-like protein, one Dicer, and one RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. As proposed before, the ancestral (but non-essential) role of these components may have been in defense responses against genomic parasites such as transposable elements and viruses. From a mechanistic perspective, the RNAi machinery in the eukaryotic ancestor may have been capable of both small-RNA-guided transcript degradation as well as transcriptional repression, most likely through histone modifications. Both roles appear to be widespread among living eukaryotes and this diversification of function could account for the evolutionary conservation of duplicated Argonaute-Piwi proteins. In contrast, additional RNAi-mediated pathways such as RNA-directed DNA methylation, programmed genome rearrangements, meiotic silencing by unpaired DNA, and miRNA-mediated gene regulation may have evolved independently in specific lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-99
Number of pages19
JournalCurrent Genetics
Volume50
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006

Fingerprint

RNA Interference
Eukaryota
Argonaute Proteins
Histone Code
RNA
RNA Replicase
DNA Transposable Elements
Double-Stranded RNA
Gene Silencing
DNA Methylation
MicroRNAs
Parasites
Genome
Viruses
Peptides
DNA
Genes
Proteins

Keywords

  • Heterochromatin
  • RNA interference
  • RNA iphylogenetics
  • Transposon silencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

Cite this

On the origin and functions of RNA-mediated silencing : From protists to man. / Cerutti, Heriberto D; Casas-Mollano, J. Armando.

In: Current Genetics, Vol. 50, No. 2, 01.08.2006, p. 81-99.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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