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Multivesicular bodies associate with components of miRNA effector complexes and modulate miRNA activity

Nature Cell Biology volume 11, pages 11431149 (2009) | Download Citation


  • An Erratum to this article was published on 01 October 2009

This article has been updated


In animals, P-bodies or GW-bodies appear to cause the congregation of proteins involved in microRNA (miRNA)-mediated post-transcriptional silencing. The localization of P-bodies does not overlap with that of known organelles and are thus considered independent of lipid bilayers. Nonetheless, an miRNA effector protein, argonaute 2 (AGO2), was initially identified as membrane-associated, and some miRNAs have been found in secreted vesicles (exosomes) that derive from endo-lysosomal compartments called multivesicular bodies (MVBs). Proteins can be sorted in a ubiquitin-dependent manner into MVBs by three heteromeric subcomplexes, collectively termed ESCRT (endosomal sorting complex required for transport), to be further secreted in exosomes and/or degraded by the lysosome. Here we show that GW-bodies containing GW182 and AGO2, two main components of the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), are distinct from P-bodies due to their congregation with endosomes and MVBs. Moreover, miRNAs and miRNA-repressible mRNAs are enriched at these cellular membranes, suggesting that endosomes and/or MVBs are sites of miRNA-loaded RISC (miRISC) accumulation and, possibly, action. We further show that purified exosome-like vesicles secreted by MVBs are considerably enriched in GW182, but not P-body components, AGO2 or miRNA-repressible mRNA. Moreover, cells depleted of some ESCRT components show compromised miRNA-mediated gene silencing and over-accumulate GW182, which associates with ubiquitylated proteins. Therefore, GW182, possibly in association with a fraction of miRNA-loaded AGO2, is sorted into MVBs for secretion and/or lysosomal degradation. We propose that this process promotes continuous assembly or disassembly of membrane-associated miRISCs, which is possibly required for miRNA loading or target recognition and subsequent silencing.

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Change history

  • 08 September 2009

    In the version of this article initially published, the Merge column of Fig. 4 was incorrect. This error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.


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This research was funded by a prize from the Schlumberger Foundation for Education and Research awarded to O.V. who is also supported by a starting grant from the European Research Council 'Frontiers of RNAi' ERC 210890. D.G. is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from La Ligue Contre le Cancer. C. C. was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (FRM). The authors thank S. Amigorena, C. Thery and M. Ostrosowski for providing exosomes from HeLa and dendritic cells and for helpful comments; B. Lorber for help with dynamic light scattering; V. Cognat for bioinformatics analysis; G. Suffert and S. Pfeffer for providing miR206, miRK12-4 and estrogen receptor 3′UTR constructs, and P. Leblanc for independent preparations of density gradients.

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  1. IBMP-CNRS, UPR2357 Université de Strasbourg, 12 rue du Général Zimmer, 67084 Strasbourg Cedex, France.

    • Derrick J. Gibbings
    • , Constance Ciaudo
    • , Mathieu Erhardt
    •  & Olivier Voinnet


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C.C. made small RNA libraries for 454 sequencing and designed and performed qRT-PCR studies. M.E. designed and performed electron microscopy experments. D.G. designed and performed all other experiments and helped write the manuscript. O.V. designed experiments and helped write the manuscript.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Olivier Voinnet.

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