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PLoS Genet. 2019 Oct 4;15(10):e1008067. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008067. eCollection 2019 Oct.

HRPK-1, a conserved KH-domain protein, modulates microRNA activity during Caenorhabditis elegans development.

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Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, United States of America.
Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-sheva, Israel.


microRNAs (miRNAs) are potent regulators of gene expression that function in diverse developmental and physiological processes. Argonaute proteins loaded with miRNAs form the miRNA Induced Silencing Complexes (miRISCs) that repress gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. miRISCs target genes through partial sequence complementarity between the miRNA and the target mRNA's 3' UTR. In addition to being targeted by miRNAs, these mRNAs are also extensively regulated by RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) through RNA processing, transport, stability, and translation regulation. While the degree to which RBPs and miRISCs interact to regulate gene expression is likely extensive, we have only begun to unravel the mechanisms of this functional cooperation. An RNAi-based screen of putative ALG-1 Argonaute interactors has identified a role for a conserved RNA binding protein, HRPK-1, in modulating miRNA activity during C. elegans development. Here, we report the physical and genetic interaction between HRPK-1 and ALG-1/miRNAs. Specifically, we report the genetic and molecular characterizations of hrpk-1 and its role in C. elegans development and miRNA-mediated target repression. We show that loss of hrpk-1 causes numerous developmental defects and enhances the mutant phenotypes associated with reduction of miRNA activity, including those of lsy-6, mir-35-family, and let-7-family miRNAs. In addition to hrpk-1 genetic interaction with these miRNA families, hrpk-1 is required for efficient regulation of lsy-6 target cog-1. We report that hrpk-1 plays a role in processing of some but not all miRNAs and is not required for ALG-1/AIN-1 miRISC assembly. We suggest that HRPK-1 may functionally interact with miRNAs by both affecting miRNA processing and by enhancing miRNA/miRISC gene regulatory activity and present models for its activity.

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Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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