Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 25036361
PLoS ONE 2014;9(7):e102957
Gene silencing by small RNAs has emerged as a powerful post-transcriptional regulator of gene expression, however processes underlying regulation of the small RNA pathway in vivo are still largely elusive. Here, we identified sumoylation as a novel post-translational modification acting on Ago2, the main effector of small RNA-mediated gene silencing. We demonstrate that Ago2 can be modified by SUMO1 and SUMO2/3 and identified Lys402 as the major Ago2 sumoylation site in vivo. Ago2 physically interacts with the SUMO E2 conjugating enzyme Ubc9 and the E3 ligase RanBP2 facilitates Ago2 sumoylation in vitro. Mutation of Lys402 enhances the stability of Ago2 protein and impairment of cellular sumoylation by siRNA- or shRNA-mediated extinction of Ubc9 or in Ubc9 knockout mouse tissues results in increased steady-state levels and enhanced stability of Ago2. Similarly, knockdown of RanBP2 or of the SAE2 E1 enzyme enhances Ago2 protein levels. Lys402 is located in the L2g1 loop linking the PAZ and PIWI domains of Ago2, in the immediate vicinity of Tyr393 which can be phosphorylated, implying that the L2g1 linker represents an easily accessible hot spot for post-translational modifications. Altogether, our results show that sumoylation of Ago2 at Lys402 negatively regulates its stability, thereby establishing a first link between SUMO and the small RNA machinery.