Chapter 31 : RNA Interference in Fungi: Retention and Loss

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RNA interference (RNAi) is a mechanism conserved in eukaryotes that represses gene expression by means of small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) of about 20 to 30 nucleotides (nt). Before the identification of the RNAi mechanism, its effects were observed in different organisms and described as independent processes. These effects were first observed in plants, in which the introduction of sequences intended to increase the production of floral pigments had the opposite effects, resulting in albino transformants. Hence, this phenomenon was called cosuppression ( ). The same phenomenon was also observed in the fungus , in which an albino phenotype was obtained after transformation with extra copies of the gene , which is involved in the production of carotenoids ( ). The characterization of this phenomenon revealed reversibility of the albino phenotype, since some descendants of the original albino transformants reverted to the wild type phenotype. At that time, this phenomenon was not linked to the process of cosuppression observed in plants and was named “quelling.” The discovery of quelling in represented a milestone in the field of RNAi, because this fungal model allowed the use of classic genetic tools to unravel the machinery of RNAi. The molecular mechanism of RNAi was finally uncovered by Fire et al., who discovered the central role of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) in the RNAi of ( ). This central role of dsRNA was soon established in all the organisms harboring a functional RNAi mechanism, including plants, fungi, and animals. Cosuppression, quelling, and other posttranscriptional gene-silencing-related phenomena were integrated into the same conserved mechanism of RNA interference ( ).

Citation: Nicolás F, Garre V. 2017. RNA Interference in Fungi: Retention and Loss, p 657-671. In Heitman J, Howlett B, Crous P, Stukenbrock E, James T, Gow N (ed), The Fungal Kingdom. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.FUNK-0008-2016
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Figure 1

Main RNA interference (RNAi) pathways identified in . Fungal RNAi-mediated defense mechanisms against exogenous nucleic acids in fungi is exemplified by the defense mechanism (left box). This fungus shows an amplification step mediated by RdRP-2, which has not been found in other fungi. In addition to this defense pathway, this fungus shows two distinct RNAi pathways to regulate the expression of endogenous genes (central and right boxes). Question marks indicate that the R3B2 protein participates in these pathways, although its precise function is unknown.

Citation: Nicolás F, Garre V. 2017. RNA Interference in Fungi: Retention and Loss, p 657-671. In Heitman J, Howlett B, Crous P, Stukenbrock E, James T, Gow N (ed), The Fungal Kingdom. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.FUNK-0008-2016
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