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RNA. 2006 Apr;12(4):589-97. Epub 2006 Feb 17.

Interacting endogenous and exogenous RNAi pathways in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Dartmouth Medical School, Department of Genetics, Hanover, New Hamphsire 03755, USA.


C. elegans contains numerous small RNAs of ~21-24 nt in length. The microRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs produced by DCR-1- and ALG-dependent processing of self-complementary hairpin transcripts. Endogenous small interfering RNAs (endo-siRNAs), associated with ongoing silencing of protein-coding genes in normal worms, are produced by mechanisms that involve DCR-1 but, unlike miRNAs, also involve RDE-2, RDE-3, RDE-4, RRF-1, and RRF-3. The tiny noncoding (tncRNAs) are similar to endo-siRNAs in their biogenesis except that they are derived from noncoding sequences. These endo-siRNA- and tncRNA-based endogenous RNAi pathways involve some components, including DCR-1 and RDE-4, that are shared with exogenous RNAi, and some components, including RRF-3 and ERI-1, that are specific to endogenous RNAi. rrf-3 and eri-1 mutants are enhanced for some silencing processes and defective for others, suggesting cross-regulatory interactions between RNAi pathways in C. elegans. Microarray expression profiling of RNAi-defective mutant worms further suggests diverse endogenous RNAi pathways for silencing different sets of genes.

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