Consequences of depleting TNRC6, AGO, and DROSHA proteins on expression of microRNAs

The potential for microRNAs (miRNAs) to regulate gene expression remains incompletely understood. DROSHA initiates the biogenesis of miRNAs while variants of Argonaute (AGO) and trinucleotide repeat containing six (TNRC6) family proteins form complexes with miRNAs to facilitate RNA recognition and gene regulation. Here we investigate the fate of miRNAs in the absence of these critical RNAi protein factors. Knockout of DROSHA expression reduces levels of some miRNAs annotated in miRBase but not others. The identity of miRNAs with reduced expression matches the identity of miRNAs previously identified by experimental approaches. The MirGeneDB resource offers the closest alignment with experimental results. In contrast, the loss of TNRC6 proteins had much smaller effects on miRNA levels. Knocking out AGO proteins, which directly contact the mature miRNA, decreased expression of the miRNAs most strongly associated with AGO2 as determined from enhanced crosslinking immunoprecipitation (AGO2-eCLIP). Evaluation of miRNA binding to endogenously expressed AGO proteins revealed that miRNA:AGO association was similar for AGO1, AGO2, AGO3, and AGO4. Our data emphasize the need to evaluate annotated miRNAs based on approximate cellular abundance, DROSHA-dependence, and physical association with AGO when forming hypotheses related to their function.
Funding Information
  • National Institutes of Health (1F31GM137591, R35GM118103)
  • Robert A. Welch Foundation I-1244

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