BACKGROUND: In nematodes, plants, and fungi, RNAi is remarkably potent and persistent due to the amplification of initial silencing signals by RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRPs). In Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), the interaction between the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) loaded with primary small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and the target messenger RNA (mRNA) leads to the recruitment of RdRPs and synthesis of secondary siRNAs using the target mRNA as the template. The mechanism and genetic requirements for secondary siRNA accumulation are not well understood.
RESULTS: From a forward genetic screen for C. elegans genes required for RNAi, we identified rde-10, and through proteomic analysis of RDE-10-interacting proteins, we identified a protein complex containing the new RNAi factor RDE-11, the known RNAi factors RSD-2 and ERGO-1, and other candidate RNAi factors. The RNAi defective genes rde-10 and rde-11 encode a novel protein and a RING-type zinc finger domain protein, respectively. Mutations in rde-10 and rde-11 genes cause dosage-sensitive RNAi deficiencies: these mutants are resistant to low dosage but sensitive to high dosage of double-stranded RNAs. We assessed the roles of rde-10, rde-11, and other dosage-sensitive RNAi-defective genes rsd-2, rsd-6, and haf-6 in both exogenous and endogenous small RNA pathways using high-throughput sequencing and qRT-PCR. These genes are required for the accumulation of secondary siRNAs in both exogenous and endogenous RNAi pathways.
CONCLUSIONS: The RDE-10/RDE-11 complex is essential for the amplification of RNAi in C. elegans by promoting secondary siRNA accumulation.