This manuscript describes the functions of an Argonaute protein named AGO17 in rice. AGO17 is required for the development of rice reproductive tissues. Argonaute (AGO) proteins are a well-conserved multigene family of regulators mediating gene silencing across eukaryotes. Monocot plants have additional members of AGO, the functions of which are poorly understood. Among the non-dicot AGO1 clade members in monocots, AGO17 expresses highly in reproductive tissues. Here we show that overexpression of Oryza sativa indica AGO17 in rice resulted in robust growth and increased yield, whereas its silencing resulted in reduced panicle length, less fertility, and poor growth. Small (s)RNA transcriptome analysis revealed misregulation of several miRNAs and other categories of sRNAs in silenced and overexpression lines, in agreement with its likely competition with other AGO1 clade members. Targets of differentially expressed miRNAs included previously unreported target RNAs coding for proteins involved in development, phase transition, and transport. Our results indicate a distinctive role for OsAGO17 in rice reproductive development that could be harnessed to improve yield.
Keywords: Argonaute; Development; Gene silencing; Rice; miRNA; siRNA.