Programmable DNA cleavage by Ago nucleases from mesophilic bacteria Clostridium butyricum and Limnothrix rosea

Nucleic Acids Res. 2019 Jun 20;47(11):5822-5836. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz379.


Argonaute (Ago) proteins are key players in RNA interference in eukaryotes, where they function as RNA-guided RNA endonucleases. Prokaryotic Argonautes (pAgos) are much more diverse than their eukaryotic counterparts but their cellular functions and mechanisms of action remain largely unknown. Some pAgos were shown to use small DNA guides for endonucleolytic cleavage of complementary DNA in vitro. However, previously studied pAgos from thermophilic prokaryotes function at elevated temperatures, which limits their potential use as a tool in genomic applications. Here, we describe two pAgos from mesophilic bacteria, Clostridium butyricum (CbAgo) and Limnothrix rosea (LrAgo), that act as DNA-guided DNA nucleases at physiological temperatures. In comparison with previously studied pAgos, CbAgo and LrAgo do not show strong preferences for the 5'-nucleotide in guide DNA and can use not only 5'-phosphorylated but also 5'-hydroxyl DNA guides. Both CbAgo and LrAgo can tolerate guide/target mismatches in the seed region, but are sensitive to mismatches in the 3'-guide region. Both pAgos can perform programmable endonucleolytic cleavage of double-stranded DNA substrates, showing enhanced activity at AT-rich regions and at elevated temperatures. The biochemical characterization of mesophilic pAgo proteins paves the way for their use for DNA manipulations both in vitro and in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Argonaute Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Clostridium butyricum / metabolism*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Cleavage
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / chemistry
  • Deoxyribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Endonucleases / metabolism
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Phosphorylation
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • RNA Interference


  • Argonaute Proteins
  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • DNA
  • Deoxyribonucleases
  • Endonucleases