2California Institute of Technology, Division of Biology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received November 8, 2017; Revision received December 5, 2017
Noncoding RNAs play essential roles in genetic regulation in all organisms. In eukaryotic cells, many small noncoding RNAs act in complex with Argonaute proteins and regulate gene expression by recognizing complementary RNA targets. The complexes of Argonaute proteins with small RNAs also play a key role in silencing of mobile genetic elements and, in some cases, viruses. These processes are collectively called RNA interference. RNA interference is a powerful tool for specific gene silencing in both basic research and therapeutic applications. Argonaute proteins are also found in prokaryotic organisms. Recent studies have shown that prokaryotic Argonautes can also cleave their target nucleic acids, in particular DNA. This activity of prokaryotic Argonautes might potentially be used to edit eukaryotic genomes. However, the molecular mechanisms of small nucleic acid biogenesis and the functions of Argonaute proteins, in particular in bacteria and archaea, remain largely unknown. Here we briefly review available data on the RNA interference processes and Argonaute proteins in eukaryotes and prokaryotes.
KEY WORDS: Argonaute proteins, RNA interference, small RNAs, mobile genetic elements