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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jan 25;108(4):1201-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1018695108. Epub 2011 Jan 18.

mut-16 and other mutator class genes modulate 22G and 26G siRNA pathways in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Argonaute-associated siRNAs and Piwi-associated piRNAs have overlapping roles in silencing mobile genetic elements in animals. In Caenorhabditis elegans, mutator (mut) class genes mediate siRNA-guided repression of transposons as well as exogenous RNAi, but their roles in endogenous RNA silencing pathways are not well-understood. To characterize the endogenous small RNAs dependent on mut class genes, small RNA populations from a null allele of mut-16 as well as a regulatory mut-16(mg461) allele that disables only somatic RNAi were subjected to deep sequencing. Additionally, each of the mut class genes was tested for a requirement in 26G siRNA pathways. The results indicate that mut-16 is an essential factor in multiple endogenous germline and somatic siRNA pathways involving several distinct Argonautes and RNA-dependent RNA polymerases. The results also reveal essential roles for mut-2 and mut-7 in the ERGO-1 class 26G siRNA pathway and less critical roles for mut-8, mut-14, and mut-15. We show that transposons are hypersusceptible to mut-16-dependent silencing and identify a requirement for the siRNA machinery in piRNA biogenesis from Tc1 transposons. We also show that the soma-specific mut-16(mg461) mutant allele is present in multiple C. elegans laboratory strains.

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