Both transcriptional (TGS) and posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS) are conserved eukaryotic gene regulatory mechanisms, integral for taming exogenous (viruses and bacteria) or endogenous (repetitive elements and transposons) invasive nucleic acids to minimize their impact on genome integrity and function. TGS and PTGS also are essential for controlling the expression of protein coding genes throughout development or in response to environmental stimuli. In plants and animals, at least one member of the conserved ARGONAUTE (AGO) protein family comprises the catalytic engine of the silencing complex, which is guided by sequence-specific small RNA to cognate RNA. In this review, we present general features of plant and animal AGO proteins and detail our knowledge on the 10 Arabidopsis thaliana AGOs.
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