Modeling neurodevelopmental disorder-associated hAGO1 mutations in C. elegans Argonaute ALG-1

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Apr 7:2023.04.06.535748. doi: 10.1101/2023.04.06.535748.


MicroRNAs (miRNA) are endogenous non-coding RNAs important for post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. miRNAs associate with Argonaute proteins to bind to the 3' UTR of target genes and confer target repression. Recently, multiple de novo coding variants in the human Argonaute gene AGO1 ( hAGO1 ) have been reported to cause a neurodevelopmental disorder (NDD) with intellectual disability (ID). Most of the altered amino acids are conserved between the miRNA-associated Argonautes in H. sapiens and C. elegans , suggesting the hAGO1 mutations could disrupt evolutionarily conserved functions in the miRNA pathway. To investigate how the hAGO1 mutations may affect miRNA biogenesis and/or functions, we genetically modeled four of the hAGO1 de novo variants (referred to as NDD mutations) by introducing the identical mutations to the C. elegans hAGO1 homolog, alg-1 . This array of mutations caused distinct effects on C. elegans miRNA functions, miRNA populations, and downstream gene expression, indicative of profound alterations in aspects of miRNA processing and miRISC formation and/or activity. Specifically, we found that the alg-1 NDD mutations cause allele-specific disruptions in mature miRNA profiles both in terms of overall abundances and association with mutant ALG-1. We also observed allele-specific profiles of gene expression with altered translational efficiency and/or mRNA abundance. The sets of perturbed genes include human homologs whose dysfunction is known to cause NDD. We anticipate that these cross-clade genetic studies may advance the understanding of fundamental Argonaute functions and provide insights into the conservation of miRNA-mediated post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms.

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