Background: RNA silencing occurs in a broad range of organisms. Although its ancestral function is probably related to the genome defense mechanism against repetitive selfish elements, it has been found that RNA silencing regulates different cellular processes such as gene expression and chromosomal segregation. In Neurospora crassa, a RNA silencing mechanism, called quelling, acts to repress the expression of transgenes and transposons, but until now no other cellular functions have been shown to be regulated by this mechanism.
Results: Here, we detected by northern blotting endogenous short interfering RNA (siRNAs) from the repetitive ribosomal DNA locus (rDNA) that are loaded onto the argonaute protein QDE-2. Moreover, we found a bidirectional transcription that can generate double strand RNA (dsRNA) molecules. Interestingly, quelling mutants have a reduced rDNA gene copy number.
Conclusion: Our finding could suggest a new biological function for RNA silencing in the maintenance of the integrity and stability of the Neurospora rDNA locus.