RNA interference (RNAi) is the mechanism through which double-stranded RNAs silence cognate genes. In plants, this can occur at both the transcriptional and the post-transcriptional levels; however, in animals, only post-transcriptional RNAi has been reported to date. In both plants and animals, RNAi is characterized by the presence of RNAs of about 22 nucleotides in length that are homologous to the gene that is being suppressed. These 22-nucleotide sequences serve as guide sequences that instruct a multicomponent nuclease, RISC, to destroy specific messenger RNAs. Here we identify an enzyme, Dicer, which can produce putative guide RNAs. Dicer is a member of the RNase III family of nucleases that specifically cleave double-stranded RNAs, and is evolutionarily conserved in worms, flies, plants, fungi and mammals. The enzyme has a distinctive structure, which includes a helicase domain and dual RNase III motifs. Dicer also contains a region of homology to the RDE1/QDE2/ARGONAUTE family that has been genetically linked to RNAi.
- Pub Date:
- January 2001