Robust RNAi enhancement via human Argonaute-2 overexpression from plasmids, viral vectors and cell lines
Authors: Börner K, Niopek D, Cotugno G, Kaldenbach M, Pankert T, Willemsen J, Zhang X, Schürmann N, Mockenhaupt S, Serva A, Hiet MS, Wiedtke E, Castoldi M, Starkuviene V, Erfle H, Gilbert DF, Bartenschlager R, Boutros M, Binder M, Streetz K, Kräusslich HG, Grimm D
CellNetworks People: Bartenschlager Ralf, Boutros Michael, Erfle Holger, Grimm Dirk, Kräusslich Hans-Georg, Starkuviene-Erfle Vytaute
Journal: Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Nov;41(21):e199. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt836

As the only mammalian Argonaute protein capable of directly cleaving mRNAs in a small RNA-guided manner, Argonaute-2 (Ago2) is a keyplayer in RNA interference (RNAi) silencing via small interfering (si) or short hairpin (sh) RNAs. It is also a rate-limiting factor whose saturation by si/shRNAs limits RNAi efficiency and causes numerous adverse side effects. Here, we report a set of versatile tools and widely applicable strategies for transient or stable Ago2 co-expression, which overcome these concerns. Specifically, we engineered plasmids and viral vectors to co-encode a codon-optimized human Ago2 cDNA along with custom shRNAs. Furthermore, we stably integrated this Ago2 cDNA into a panel of standard human cell lines via plasmid transfection or lentiviral transduction. Using various endo- or exogenous targets, we demonstrate the potential of all three strategies to boost mRNA silencing efficiencies in cell culture by up to 10-fold, and to facilitate combinatorial knockdowns. Importantly, these robust improvements were reflected by augmented RNAi phenotypes and accompanied by reduced off-targeting effects. We moreover show that Ago2/shRNA-co-encoding vectors can enhance and prolong transgene silencing in livers of adult mice, while concurrently alleviating hepatotoxicity. Our customizable reagents and avenues should broadly improve future in vitro and in vivo RNAi experiments in mammalian systems.