MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are sequentially processed by two RNase III enzymes, Drosha and Dicer. miR-451 is the only known miRNA whose processing bypasses Dicer and instead relies on the slicer activity of Argonaute-2 (Ago2). miR-451 is highly conserved in vertebrates and regulates erythrocyte maturation, where it becomes the most abundant miRNA. However, the basis for the non-canonical biogenesis of miR-451 is unclear. Here, we show that Ago2 is less efficient than Dicer in processing pre-miRNAs, but this deficit is overcome when miR-144 represses Dicer in a negative-feedback loop during erythropoiesis. Loss of miR-144-mediated Dicer repression in zebrafish embryos and human cells leads to increased canonical miRNA production and impaired miR-451 maturation. Overexpression of Ago2 rescues some of the defects of miR-451 processing. Thus, the evolution of Ago2-dependent processing allows miR-451 to circumvent the global repression of canonical miRNAs elicited, in part, by the miR-144 targeting of Dicer during erythropoiesis.
- non-canonical microRNA