A plethora of non-protein coding RNAs are produced throughout eukaryotic genomes, many of which are transcribed antisense to protein-coding genes and could potentially instigate RNA interference (RNAi) responses. Here we have used a synthetic RNAi system to show that gene copy number is a key factor controlling RNAi for transcripts from endogenous loci, since transcripts from multi-copy loci form double stranded RNA more efficiently than transcripts from equivalently expressed single-copy loci. Selectivity towards transcripts from high-copy DNA is therefore an emergent property of a minimal RNAi system. The ability of RNAi to selectively degrade transcripts from high-copy loci would allow suppression of newly emerging transposable elements, but such a surveillance system requires transcription. We show that low-level genome-wide pervasive transcription is sufficient to instigate RNAi, and propose that pervasive transcription is part of a defense mechanism capable of directing a sequence-independent RNAi response against transposable elements amplifying within the genome. © Cruz and Houseley.
Cruz, C., & Houseley, J. (2014). Endogenous RNA interference is driven by copy number. ELife, 2014(3). https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01581