A dicer-like protein is essential for normal sexual development and meiotic silencing in the filamnentous fungus neurospora crassa
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The presence of an unpaired copy of a gene during meiosis triggers the silencing of every copy of that gene in the diploid ascus cell of Neurospora crassa, a phenomenon called Meiotic Silencing. This phenomenon has two stages: trans-sensing and meiotic silencing. If a DNA region is not detected on the opposite homologous chromosome early in meiosis (a trans-sensing failure), a signal corresponding to the unpaired region is produced that transiently silences expression of all homologous sequences. Meiotic silencing is related to RNA Silencing, a phenomenon that employs RNA-dependent RNA Polymerases (RdRPs), Argonautes, and Dicers. Dicers cleave double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) into 21-23 nucleotide RNAs. In the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, two RNA silencing pathways have been identified; one is active during mitosis, and the other is active during meiosis. The mitotic RNA silencing pathway, known as “quelling”, involves an RdRP (quelling-deficient-1--qde-1), an Argonaute-like protein (quelling-deficient-2--qde-2), and two Dicer-like proteins (dicer-like-1--dcl-1 and dicer-like-2--dcl-2). Previous studies in N. crassa also revealed the involvement of an RdRP (Suppressor of ascus dominance-1--Sad-1) and an Argonaute-like protein (Suppressor of meiotic silencing-2--Sms-2) in meiotic silencing, suggesting that meiotic silencing is RNA-dependent and raising the question of whether a Dicer is involved in meiotic silencing. In this work, we tested the participation in meiotic silencing of the dcl-1 gene of N. crassa, which codes for a Dicer-like protein we call Suppressor of meiotic silencing-3--Sms-3. Crosses homozygous for mutant alleles of Sms-3 are barren, indicating that the gene is also essential for sexual development. Due to this homozygous sterility, we could only test the involvement of Sms-3 in meiotic silencing in heterozygous crosses. Under these conditions, we observed suppression of the meiotic silencing which would have otherwise been induced by the presence of unpaired DNA of reporter genes. We conclude that the Dicerlike protein Sms-3 is required for both meiotic RNA silencing and sexual development.
McLaughlin, Malcolm Thomas (2007). A dicer-like protein is essential for normal sexual development and meiotic silencing in the filamnentous fungus neurospora crassa. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from