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Genome Biol Evol. 2009 Jul 6;1:165-75. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evp017.

High throughput genome-wide survey of small RNAs from the parasitic protists Giardia intestinalis and Trichomonas vaginalis.

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  • 1Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. sylvia.x.chen@gmail.com


RNA interference (RNAi) is a set of mechanisms which regulate gene expression in eukaryotes. Key elements of RNAi are small sense and antisense RNAs from 19 to 26 nt generated from double-stranded RNAs. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a major type of RNAi-associated small RNAs and are found in most eukaryotes studied to date. To investigate whether small RNAs associated with RNAi appear to be present in all eukaryotic lineages, and therefore present in the ancestral eukaryote, we studied two deep-branching protozoan parasites, Giardia intestinalis and Trichomonas vaginalis. Little is known about endogenous small RNAs involved in RNAi of these organisms. Using Illumina Solexa sequencing and genome-wide analysis of small RNAs from these distantly related deep-branching eukaryotes, we identified 10 strong miRNA candidates from Giardia and 11 from Trichomonas. We also found evidence of Giardia short-interfering RNAs potentially involved in the expression of variant-specific surface proteins. In addition, eight new small nucleolar RNAs from Trichomonas are identified. Our results indicate that miRNAs are likely to be general in ancestral eukaryotes and therefore are likely to be a universal feature of eukaryotes.


RNA evolution; ancestral eukaryotes; miRNA; protists

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