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RNA. 2011 Dec;17(12):2152-64. doi: 10.1261/rna.028118.111. Epub 2011 Oct 27.

A microRNA derived from an apparent canonical biogenesis pathway regulates variant surface protein gene expression in Giardia lamblia.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94158-2280, USA.


We have previously shown that a snoRNA-derived microRNA, miR2, in Giardia lamblia potentially regulates the expression of 22 variant surface protein (VSP) genes. Here, we identified another miRNA, miR4, also capable of regulating the expression of several VSPs but derived from an unannotated open reading frame (ORF) rather than a snoRNA, suggesting a canonical miRNA biogenesis pathway in Giardia. miR4 represses expression of a reporter containing two miR4 antisense sequences at the 3' UTR without causing a corresponding decrease in the mRNA level. This repression requires the presence of the Giardia Argonaute protein (GlAgo) and is reversed by 2' O-methylated antisense oligo to miR4, suggesting an RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC)-mediated mechanism. Furthermore, in vivo and in vitro evidence suggested that the Giardia Dicer protein (GlDcr) is required for miR4 biogenesis. Coimmunoprecipitation of miR4 with GlAgo further verified miR4 as a miRNA. A total of 361 potential target sites for miR4 were bioinformatically identified in Giardia, out of which 69 (32.7%) were associated with VSP genes. miR4 reduces the expression of a reporter containing two copies of the target site from VSP (GL50803_36493) at the 3' UTR. Sixteen of the 69 VSP genes were further found to contain partially overlapping miR2 and miR4 targeting sites. Expression of a reporter carrying the two overlapping sites was inhibited by either miR2 or miR4, but the inhibition was neither synergistic nor additive, suggesting a complex mechanism of miRNA regulation of VSP expression and the presence of a rich miRNAome in Giardia.

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