Large-scale sequencing reveals 21U-RNAs and additional microRNAs and endogenous siRNAs in C. elegans

Cell. 2006 Dec 15;127(6):1193-207. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2006.10.040.


We sequenced approximately 400,000 small RNAs from Caenorhabditis elegans. Another 18 microRNA (miRNA) genes were identified, thereby extending to 112 our tally of confidently identified miRNA genes in C. elegans. Also observed were thousands of endogenous siRNAs generated by RNA-directed RNA polymerases acting preferentially on transcripts associated with spermatogenesis and transposons. In addition, a third class of nematode small RNAs, called 21U-RNAs, was discovered. 21U-RNAs are precisely 21 nucleotides long, begin with a uridine 5'-monophosphate but are diverse in their remaining 20 nucleotides, and appear modified at their 3'-terminal ribose. 21U-RNAs originate from more than 5700 genomic loci dispersed in two broad regions of chromosome IV-primarily between protein-coding genes or within their introns. These loci share a large upstream motif that enables accurate prediction of additional 21U-RNAs. The motif is conserved in other nematodes, presumably because of its importance for producing these diverse, autonomously expressed, small RNAs (dasRNAs).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Conserved Sequence
  • MicroRNAs / chemistry
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA, Helminth / chemistry
  • RNA, Helminth / genetics*
  • RNA, Helminth / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / chemistry
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • RNA, Untranslated / chemistry
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics*
  • RNA, Untranslated / metabolism
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Uridine / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Helminth
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase
  • Uridine