RNA silencing in plants likely exists as a defense mechanism against molecular parasites such as RNA viruses, retrotransposons, and transgenes. As a result, many plant viruses have adapted mechanisms to evade and suppress gene silencing. Tombusviruses express a 19 kDa protein (p19), which has been shown to suppress RNA silencing in vivo and bind silencing-generated and synthetic small interferingRNAs (siRNAs) in vitro. Here we report the 2.5 A° crystal structure of p19 from the Carnation Italian ringspot virus (CIRV) bound to a 21 nt siRNA and demonstrate in biochemical and in vivo assays that CIRV p19 protein acts as molecular caliper to specifically select siRNAs based on the length of the duplex region of the RNA.
Previously published in Cell, December 2003, vol. 115, pp. 799–811 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S009286740300984X