Expression determinants of mammalian argonaute proteins in mediating gene silencing

Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Apr;40(8):3704-13. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr1274. Epub 2011 Dec 30.


RNA interference occurs by two main processes: mRNA site-specific cleavage and non-cleavage-based mRNA degradation or translational repression. Site-specific cleavage is carried out by argonaute-2 (Ago2), while all four mammalian argonaute proteins (Ago1-Ago4) can carry out non-cleavage-mediated inhibition, suggesting that Ago1, Ago3 and Ago4 may have similar but potentially redundant functions. It has been observed that in mammalian tissues, expression of Ago3 and Ago4 is dramatically lower compared with Ago1; however, an optimization of the Ago3 and Ago4 coding sequences to include only the most common codon at each amino acid position was able to augment the expression of Ago3 and Ago4 to levels comparable to that of Ago1 and Ago2. Thus, we examined whether particular sequence features exist in the coding region of Ago3 and Ago4 that may prevent a high level of expression. Swapping specific sub-regions of wild-type and optimized Ago sequence identified the portion of the coding region (nucleotides 1-1163 for Ago-3 and 1-1494 for Ago-4) that is most influential for expression. This finding has implications for the evolutionary conservation of Ago proteins in the mammalian lineage and the biological role that potentially redundant Ago proteins may have.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Animals
  • Argonaute Proteins / chemistry
  • Argonaute Proteins / genetics*
  • Argonaute Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Codon
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factors / chemistry
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factors / genetics*
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • AGO3 protein, human
  • AGO4 protein, human
  • Argonaute Proteins
  • Codon
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factors
  • RNA, Messenger