The hub protein loquacious connects the microRNA and short interfering RNA pathways in mosquitoes
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes vector several arboviruses of global health significance, including dengue viruses and chikungunya virus. RNA interference (RNAi) plays an important role in antiviral immunity, gene regulation and protection from transposable elements. Double-stranded RNA binding proteins (dsRBPs) are important for efficient RNAi; in Drosophila functional specialization of the miRNA, endo-siRNA and exo-siRNA pathway is aided by the dsRBPs Loquacious (Loqs-PB, Loqs-PD) and R2D2, respectively. However, this functional specialization has not been investigated in other dipterans. We were unable to detect Loqs-PD in Ae. aegypti; analysis of other dipteran genomes demonstrated that this isoform is not conserved outside of Drosophila. Overexpression experiments and small RNA sequencing following depletion of each dsRBP revealed that R2D2 and Loqs-PA cooperate non-redundantly in siRNA production, and that these proteins exhibit an inhibitory effect on miRNA levels. Conversely, Loqs-PB alone interacted with mosquito dicer-1 and was essential for full miRNA production. Mosquito Loqs interacted with both argonaute 1 and 2 in a manner independent of its interactions with dicer. We conclude that the functional specialization of Loqs-PD in Drosophila is a recently derived trait, and that in other dipterans, including the medically important mosquitoes, Loqs-PA participates in both the miRNA and endo-siRNA based pathways.