Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


RNA Therapeutics Institute

First Thesis Advisor

Phillip D. Zamore, Ph.D.


MicroRNAs, RNA Helicases, RNA Interference, RNA-Binding Proteins, RNA-Induced Silencing Complex, Germ Cells, Mutation, Drosophila melanogaster, Body Patterning


In the preceding chapters, I have discussed my doctoral research on studying the siRNA loading pathway in Drosophila using both biochemical and genetic approaches. We established a gel shift system to identify the intermediate complexes formed during siRNA loading. We detected at least three complexes, named complex B, RISC loading complex (RLC) and RISC. Using kinetic modeling, we determined that the siRNA enters complex B and RLC early during assembly when it remains double-stranded, and then matures in RISC to generate Argonaute bearing only the single-stranded guide. We further characterized the three complexes. We showed that complex B comprises Dcr-1 and Loqs, while both RLC and RISC contain Dcr-2 and R2D2. Our study suggests that the Dcr-2/R2D2 heterodimer plays a central role in RISC assembly. We observed that Dcr-1/Loqs, which function together to process pre-miRNA into mature miRNA, were also involved in siRNA loading. This was surprising, because it has been proposed that the RNAi pathway and miRNA pathway are separate and parallel, with each using a unique set of proteins to produce small RNAs, to assemble functional RNA-guided enzyme complexes, and to regulate target mRNAs. We further examined the molecular function of Dcr-1/Loqs in RNAi pathway. Our data suggest that, in vivo and in vitro, the Dcr-1/Loqs complex binds to siRNA. In vitro, the binding of the Dcr-1/Loqs complex to siRNA is the earliest detectable step in siRNA-triggered Ago2-RISC assembly. Futhermore, the binding of Dcr-1/Loqs to siRNA appears to facilitate dsRNA dicing by Dcr-2/R2D2, because the dicing activity is much lower in loqslysate than in wild type.

Long inverted repeat (IR) triggered white silencing in fly eyes is an example of endogenous RNAi. Consistent with our finding that Dcr-1/Loqs function to load siRNA, less white siRNA accumulates in loqs mutant eyes compared to wild type. As a result, loqs mutants are partially defective in IR trigged whitesilencing. Our data suggest considerable functional and genetic overlap between the miRNA and siRNA pathways, with the two sharing key components previously thought to be confined to just one of the two pathways.

Based on our study on siRNA loading pathway, we also elucidated the molecular function of Armitage (Armi) protein in RNAi. We showed that armi is required for RNAi. Lysates from armi mutant ovaries are defective for RNAi in vitro. Native gel analysis of protein-siRNA complexes suggests that armi mutants support early steps in the RNAi pathway, i.e., the formation of complex B and RLC, but are defective in the production of the RISC.


In the absence of an abstract, the first part of the general discussion is substituted.



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