Argonaute (AGO) proteins are key nuclease effectors of RNAi. Although purified AGOs can mediate a single round of target RNA cleavage in vitro, accessory factors are required for small interfering RNA (siRNA) loading and to achieve multiple-target turnover. To identify AGO cofactors, we immunoprecipitated the C. elegans AGO WAGO-1, which engages amplified small RNAs during RNAi. These studies identified a robust association between WAGO-1 and a conserved Vasa ATPase-related protein RDE-12. rde-12 mutants are deficient in RNAi, including viral suppression, and fail to produce amplified secondary siRNAs and certain endogenous siRNAs (endo-siRNAs). RDE-12 colocalizes with WAGO-1 in germline P granules and in cytoplasmic and perinuclear foci in somatic cells. These findings and our genetic studies suggest that RDE-12 is first recruited to target mRNA by upstream AGOs (RDE-1 and ERGO-1), where it promotes small RNA amplification and/or WAGO-1 loading. Downstream of these events, RDE-12 forms an RNase-resistant (target mRNA-independent) complex with WAGO-1 and may thus have additional functions in target mRNA surveillance and silencing.
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