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Plant J. 2003 Aug;35(3):342-9.

A gene encoding an RNase D exonuclease-like protein is required for post-transcriptional silencing in Arabidopsis.

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Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Novartis Research Foundation, Maulbeerstrasse 66, CH-4058 Basel, Switzerland.

Erratum in

  • Plant J. 2003 Dec;36(5):741.


Post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) and the closely related phenomenon RNA interference (RNAi) result from the initial endonucleolytic cleavage of target mRNAs, which are then presumed to be completely hydrolyzed by exoribonucleases. To date, no plant genes required for PTGS are known to encode exoribonucleases. The Arabidopsis Werner Syndrome-like exonuclease (WEX) gene encodes an RNase D domain most similar to that in human Werner Syndrome protein (WRN), but lacks the RecQ helicase domain. It is also related to Caenorhabditis elegans mut-7, which is essential for RNAi, PTGS, and transposon activity. We isolated a loss-of-function mutant, wex-1, that showed greatly reduced expression of WEX mRNA and early flowering. Although wex-1 did not affect expression of a robust marker for transcriptional gene silencing (TGS), PTGS of a green-fluorescent-protein (GFP) reporter gene was blocked in wex-1 and restored by ectopic expression of WEX, indicating that WEX is required for PTGS but not TGS. Thus, members of the RNase D protein family are required for PTGS in both plants and animals. Interestingly, WEX has been shown to interact with an Arabidopsis RecQ helicase, suggesting that these proteins might comprise a functional equivalent of WRN.

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