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Cell. 2012 Nov 21;151(5):1055-67. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.10.036.

Argonaute divides its RNA guide into domains with distinct functions and RNA-binding properties.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.

Erratum in

  • Cell. 2013 Jan 17;152(1-2):366.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) guide Argonaute proteins to silence mRNA expression. Argonaute binding alters the properties of an RNA guide, creating functional domains. We show that the domains established by Argonaute-the anchor, seed, central, 3' supplementary, and tail regions-have distinct biochemical properties that explain the differences between how animal miRNAs and siRNAs bind their targets. Extensive complementarity between an siRNA and its target slows the rate at which fly Argonaute2 (Ago2) binds to and dissociates from the target. Highlighting its role in antiviral defense, fly Ago2 dissociates so slowly from extensively complementary target RNAs that essentially every fully paired target is cleaved. Conversely, mouse AGO2, which mainly mediates miRNA-directed repression, dissociates rapidly and with similar rates for fully paired and seed-matched targets. Our data narrow the range of biochemically reasonable models for how Argonaute-bound siRNAs and miRNAs find, bind, and regulate their targets.

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