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Synergistic and independent actions of multiple terminal nucleotidyl transferases in the 3' tailing of small RNAs in Arabidopsis.


All types of small RNAs in plants, piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) in animals and a subset of siRNAs in Drosophila and C. elegans are subject to HEN1 mediated 3' terminal 2'-O-methylation. This modification plays a pivotal role in protecting small RNAs from 3' uridylation, trimming and degradation. In Arabidopsis, HESO1 is a major enzyme that uridylates small RNAs to trigger their degradation. However, U-tail is still present in null hen1 heso1 mutants, suggesting the existence of (an) enzymatic activities redundant with HESO1. Here, we report that UTP: RNA uridylyltransferase (URT1) is a functional paralog of HESO1. URT1 interacts with AGO1 and plays a predominant role in miRNA uridylation when HESO1 is absent. Uridylation of miRNA is globally abolished in a hen1 heso1 urt1 triple mutant, accompanied by an extensive increase of 3'-to-5' trimming. In contrast, disruption of URT1 appears not to affect the heterochromatic siRNA uridylation. This indicates the involvement of additional nucleotidyl transferases in the siRNA pathway. Analysis of miRNA tailings in the hen1 heso1 urt1 triple mutant also reveals the existence of previously unknown enzymatic activities that can add non-uridine nucleotides. Importantly, we show HESO1 may also act redundantly with URT1 in miRNA uridylation when HEN1 is fully competent. Taken together, our data not only reveal a synergistic action of HESO1 and URT1 in the 3' uridylation of miRNAs, but also independent activities of multiple terminal nucleotidyl transferases in the 3' tailing of small RNAs and an antagonistic relationship between uridylation and trimming. Our results may provide further insight into the mechanisms of small RNA 3' end modification and stability control.

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