How short RNAs impact the human ribonuclease Dicer activity: putative regulatory feedback-loops and other RNA-mediated mechanisms controlling microRNA processing

  • Natalia Koralewska Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy of Sciences Noskowskiego 12/14 61-704 Poznan Poland
  • Weronika Hoffmann Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of University of Gdansk and Medical University of Gdansk Abrahama 58 80-307 Gdansk
  • Maria Pokornowska Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy of Sciences Noskowskiego 12/14 61-704 Poznan Poland
  • Marek Cezary Milewski Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy of Sciences Noskowskiego 12/14 61-704 Poznan Poland
  • Andrea Lipinska Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of University of Gdansk and Medical University of Gdansk Abrahama 58 80-307 Gdansk
  • Krystyna Bienkowska-Szewczyk Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of University of Gdansk and Medical University of Gdansk Abrahama 58 80-307 Gdansk
  • Marek Figlerowicz 1. Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy of Sciences Noskowskiego 12/14 61-704 Poznan Poland 2. Institute of Computing Science, Poznan University of Technology, 60-965 Poznan, Poland
  • Anna Kurzynska-Kokorniak Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy of Sciences Noskowskiego 12/14 61-704 Poznan Poland
Keywords: ribonuclease Dicer, miRNA processing, regulatory RNAs, regulation of Dicer activity, regulatory feedback-loops


Ribonuclease Dicer plays a pivotal role in RNA interference pathways by processing long double-stranded RNAs and single-stranded hairpin RNA precursors into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs), respectively. While details of Dicer regulation by variety of proteins are being elucidated, less is known about non-protein factors; e.g. RNA molecules, that may influence the enzyme activity. Therefore, we decided to investigate the problem of whether the RNA molecules can function not only as Dicer substrates but also as its regulators.

Our previous in vitro studies indicated that the activity of human Dicer can be influenced by short RNA molecules that either bind to Dicer or interact with its substrates, or both. Those studies were carried out with commercial Dicer preparations. Nevertheless, such preparations are usually not homogeneous enough to carry out more detailed RNA-binding studies. Therefore, we have established our own system for the production of human Dicer in insect cells. In this manuscript we characterize the RNA-binding and RNA-cleavage properties of the obtained preparation. We demonstrate that Dicer can efficiently bind single-stranded RNAs longer than ~20-nucleotides. Consequently, we revisit possible scenarios of Dicer regulation by single-stranded RNA species ranging from ~10- to ~60-nucleotides, in the context of their binding with the enzyme. Finally, we show that siRNA/miRNA-sized RNAs may affect miRNA production either by binding to Dicer or by regulatory feedback-loops. Altogether, our studies suggest a broad regulatory role of short RNAs in Dicer functioning.


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