Target-directed microRNA degradation: Mechanisms, significance, and functional implications

Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA. 2024 Mar-Apr;15(2):e1832. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1832.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that play a fundamental role in enabling miRNA-mediated target repression, a post-transcriptional gene regulatory mechanism preserved across metazoans. Loss of certain animal miRNA genes can lead to developmental abnormalities, disease, and various degrees of embryonic lethality. These short RNAs normally guide Argonaute (AGO) proteins to target RNAs, which are in turn translationally repressed and destabilized, silencing the target to fine-tune gene expression and maintain cellular homeostasis. Delineating miRNA-mediated target decay has been thoroughly examined in thousands of studies, yet despite these exhaustive studies, comparatively less is known about how and why miRNAs are directed for decay. Several key observations over the years have noted instances of rapid miRNA turnover, suggesting endogenous means for animals to induce miRNA degradation. Recently, it was revealed that certain targets, so-called target-directed miRNA degradation (TDMD) triggers, can "trigger" miRNA decay through inducing proteolysis of AGO and thereby the bound miRNA. This process is mediated in animals via the ZSWIM8 ubiquitin ligase complex, which is recruited to AGO during engagement with triggers. Since its discovery, several studies have identified that ZSWIM8 and TDMD are indispensable for proper animal development. Given the rapid expansion of this field of study, here, we summarize the key findings that have led to and followed the discovery of ZSWIM8-dependent TDMD. This article is categorized under: Regulatory RNAs/RNAi/Riboswitches > Regulatory RNAs RNA Turnover and Surveillance > Turnover/Surveillance Mechanisms RNA in Disease and Development > RNA in Development.

Keywords: RNAi; TDMD; ZSWIM8; development; microRNA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Argonaute Proteins / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • RNA Interference
  • Riboswitch*


  • MicroRNAs
  • Argonaute Proteins
  • Riboswitch