In eukaryotic RNA silencing, RNase-III classes of enzymes in the Dicer family process double-stranded RNA of cellular or exogenous origin into small-RNA (sRNA) molecules. sRNAs are then loaded into effector proteins known as ARGONAUTEs (AGOs), which, as part of RNA-induced silencing complexes, target complementary RNA or DNA for silencing. Plants have evolved a large variety of pathways over the Dicer–AGO consortium, which most likely underpins part of their phenotypic plasticity. Dicer-like proteins produce all known classes of plant silencing sRNAs, which are invariably stabilized via 2′-O-methylation mediated by HUA ENHANCER 1 (HEN1), potentially amplified by the action of several RNA-dependent RNA polymerases, and function through a variety of AGO proteins. Here, we review the known characteristics and biochemical properties of the core silencing factors found in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We also describe how interactions between these core factors and more specialized proteins allow the production of a plethora of silencing sRNAs involved in a large array of biological functions. We emphasize in particular the biogenesis and activities of silencing sRNAs of endogenous origin.
Via Christophe Jacquet