Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

microRNAs (miRNAs) represent a novel class of genome-encoded eukaryotic regulatory RNAs that silence gene expression posttranscriptionally. Although the proteins mediating miRNA biogenesis and function have been identified, the precise mechanism by which miRNAs regulate the expression of target mRNAs remains unclear. We summarize recent work from our laboratory demonstrating that miRNAs silence gene expression by at least two independent mechanisms: by repressing translation and/or by promoting mRNA degradation. In Drosophila, both mechanisms require Argonaute 1 (AGO1) and the P-body component GW182. Moreover, mRNA degradation by miRNAs is effected by the enzymes involved in general mRNA decay, including deadenylases and decapping enzymes, which also localize to P bodies. Our findings suggest a model for miRNA function in which AGO1 associates with miRNA targets through miRNA:mRNA base-pairing interactions. GW182 interacts with AGO1 and recruits deadenylases and decapping enzymes, leading to mRNA degradation. However, not all miRNA targets are degraded: Some stay in a translationally silent state, from which they may eventually be released. We propose that the final outcome of miRNA regulation (i.e., degradation vs. translational repression) is influenced by other RNA-binding proteins interacting with the targeted mRNA.

Original publication




Journal article


Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol

Publication Date





523 - 530


Animals, Argonaute Proteins, Drosophila, Drosophila Proteins, Eukaryotic Initiation Factors, Gene Silencing, MicroRNAs, Models, Biological, Protein Biosynthesis, RNA Caps, RNA Stability, RNA, Messenger