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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Sep 6;102(36):12984-9. Epub 2005 Aug 29.

DICER-LIKE 4 functions in trans-acting small interfering RNA biogenesis and vegetative phase change in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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  • 1Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology and Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.

Abstract

Arabidopsis thaliana contains four DICER-LIKE (DCL) genes with specialized functions in small RNA biogenesis for RNA interference-related processes. A mutant with defects in DCL4 was identified and analyzed for microRNA- and endogenous, small interfering RNA (siRNA)-related functions. The dcl4-2 mutant contained normal or near-normal levels of microRNAs (21 nt) and heterochromatin-associated siRNAs (24 nt). In contrast, this mutant lacked each of three families of 21-nt trans-acting siRNAs (ta-siRNAs) and possessed elevated levels of ta-siRNA target transcripts. The dcl4-2 mutant resembled an rna-dependent RNA polymerase 6 mutant in that both mutants lacked ta-siRNAs and displayed heterochronic defects in which vegetative phase change was accelerated. Double mutant analyses with dcl2-1, dcl3-1, and dcl4-2 alleles revealed hierarchical redundancy among DCL activities, leading to alternative processing of ta-siRNA precursors in the absence of DCL4. These data support the concept that plants have specialized and compartmentalized DCL functions for biogenesis of distinct small RNA classes.

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