microRNA-122 Dependent Binding of Ago2 Protein to Hepatitis C Virus RNA Is Associated with Enhanced RNA Stability and Translation Stimulation

Conrad, K. Dominik; Giering, Florian; Erfurth, Corinna; Neumann, Angelina; Fehr, Carmen; Meister, Gunter; Niepmann, Michael
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Translation of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) RNA is directed by an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) in the 5′-untranslated region (5′-UTR). HCV translation is stimulated by the liver-specific microRNA-122 (miR-122) that binds to two binding sites between the stem-loops I and II near the 5′-end of the 5′-UTR. Here, we show that Argonaute (Ago) 2 protein binds to the HCV 5′-UTR in a miR-122-dependent manner, whereas the HCV 3′-UTR does not bind Ago2. miR-122 also recruits Ago1 to the HCV 5’-UTR. Only miRNA duplex precursors of the correct length stimulate HCV translation, indicating that the duplex miR-122 precursors are unwound by a complex that measures their length. Insertions in the 5′-UTR between the miR-122 binding sites and the IRES only slightly decrease translation stimulation by miR-122. In contrast, partially masking the miR-122 binding sites in a stem-loop structure impairs Ago2 binding and translation stimulation by miR-122. In an RNA decay assay, also miR-122-mediated RNA stability contributes to HCV translation stimulation. These results suggest that Ago2 protein is directly involved in loading miR-122 to the HCV RNA and mediating RNA stability and translation stimulation.


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