Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 33664268
Link to DOI – 10.1038/s41467-021-21691-6
Nat Commun 2021 03; 12(1): 1441
Inheritance and clearance of maternal mRNAs are two of the most critical events required for animal early embryonic development. However, the mechanisms regulating this process are still largely unknown. Here, we show that together with maternal mRNAs, C. elegans embryos inherit a complementary pool of small non-coding RNAs that facilitate the cleavage and removal of hundreds of maternal mRNAs. These antisense small RNAs are loaded into the maternal catalytically-active Argonaute CSR-1 and cleave complementary mRNAs no longer engaged in translation in somatic blastomeres. Induced depletion of CSR-1 specifically during embryonic development leads to embryonic lethality in a slicer-dependent manner and impairs the degradation of CSR-1 embryonic mRNA targets. Given the conservation of Argonaute catalytic activity, we propose that a similar mechanism operates to clear maternal mRNAs during the maternal-to-zygotic transition across species.