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Influence of the loop size and nucleotide composition on AgoshRNA biogenesis and activity

posted on 2017-06-01, 14:54 authored by Elena Herrera-Carrillo, Alex Harwig, Ben Berkhout

Short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) are widely used for gene silencing by the RNA interference (RNAi) mechanism. The shRNA precursor is processed by the Dicer enzyme into active small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that subsequently target a complementary mRNA for cleavage by the Argonaute 2 (Ago2) complex. Recent evidence indicates that shRNAs with a relatively short basepaired stem bypass Dicer and are instead processed by Ago2. We termed these molecules AgoshRNAs as both processing and silencing steps are mediated by Ago2 and proposed rules for the design of effective AgoshRNA molecules. Active and non-cytotoxic AgoshRNAs against HIV-1 RNA were generated, but their silencing activity was generally reduced compared with the matching shRNAs. Thus, further optimization of the AgoshRNA design is needed. In this study, we evaluated the importance of the single-stranded loop, in particular its size and nucleotide sequence, in AgoshRNA-mediated silencing. We document that the pyrimidine/purine content is important for AgoshRNA-mediated silencing activity.