microRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of endogenous regulatory RNAs that play a key role in myriad biological processes. Upon transcription, primary miRNA transcripts are sequentially processed by Drosha and Dicer ribonucleases into ~22–24 nt miRNAs. Subsequently, miRNAs are incorporated into the RNA-induced silencing complexes (RISCs) that contain Argonaute (AGO) family proteins and guide RISC to target RNAs via complementary base pairing, leading to post-transcriptional gene silencing by a combination of translation inhibition and mRNA destabilization. Select pre-mRNA splicing factors have been implicated in small RNA-mediated gene silencing pathways in fission yeast, worms, flies and mammals, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we show that SmD1, a core component of the Drosophila small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle (snRNP) implicated in splicing, is required for miRNA biogenesis and function. SmD1 interacts with both the microprocessor component Pasha and pri-miRNAs, and is indispensable for optimal miRNA biogenesis. Depletion of SmD1 impairs the assembly and function of the miRISC without significantly affecting the expression of major canonical miRNA pathway components. Moreover, SmD1 physically and functionally associates with components of the miRISC, including AGO1 and GW182. Notably, miRNA defects resulting from SmD1 silencing can be uncoupled from defects in pre-mRNA splicing, and the miRNA and splicing machineries are physically and functionally distinct entities. Finally, photoactivatable-ribonucleoside-enhanced crosslinking and immunoprecipitation (PAR-CLIP) analysis identifies numerous SmD1-binding events across the transcriptome and reveals direct SmD1-miRNA interactions. Our study suggests that SmD1 plays a direct role in miRNA-mediated gene silencing independently of its pre-mRNA splicing activity and indicates that the dual roles of splicing factors in post-transcriptional gene regulation may be evolutionarily widespread.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research