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Annu Rev Biophys. 2013;42:217-39. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biophys-083012-130404.

Molecular mechanisms of RNA interference.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


Small RNA molecules regulate eukaryotic gene expression during development and in response to stresses including viral infection. Specialized ribonucleases and RNA-binding proteins govern the production and action of small regulatory RNAs. After initial processing in the nucleus by Drosha, precursor microRNAs (pre-miRNAs) are transported to the cytoplasm, where Dicer cleavage generates mature microRNAs (miRNAs) and short interfering RNAs (siRNAs). These double-stranded products assemble with Argonaute proteins such that one strand is preferentially selected and used to guide sequence-specific silencing of complementary target mRNAs by endonucleolytic cleavage or translational repression. Molecular structures of Dicer and Argonaute proteins, and of RNA-bound complexes, have offered exciting insights into the mechanisms operating at the heart of RNA-silencing pathways.

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