The Mechanism of RNase III Action: How Dicer Dices

  • Xinhua Ji
Part of the Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology book series (CT MICROBIOLOGY, volume 320)


Members of the Ribonuclease III (RNase III) family are double-stranded (ds) RNA-specific endoribonucleases, characterized by a signature motif in their active centers and a 2-nucleotide (nt) 3′ overhang in their products. Dicer functions as a dsRNA-processing enzyme, producing small interfering RNA (siRNA) of approx. 24 nt in length (approx. 20-basepair RNA duplex with a 2-nt 3′ overhang on each end). Bacterial RNase III functions not only as a processing enzyme, but also as a binding protein that binds dsRNA without cleaving it. As a processing enzyme it produces siRNA-like RNA of approx. 13 nt in length (approx. 9-basepair duplex with a 2-nt 3′ overhang on each end) as well as various types of mature RNA. Dicer is structurally most complicated member of the family; bacterial RNase III is comparatively much simpler. One structure is known for Dicer in its RNA-free form (MacRae, Zhou, Li, Repic, Brooks, Cande, Adams, and Doudna, Science 311:195–198); many structures are available for bacterial RNase III, including the first catalytic complex of the entire family (Gan, Tropea, Austin, Court, Waugh, and Ji, Cell 124:355–366). In light of the structural and biochemical information on the RNase III proteins and the structure of a non-Dicer PAZ (Piwi Argonaute Zwille) domain in complex with a 7-basepair RNA duplex with a 2-nt 3′ overhang on each end (Ma, Ye, and Patel, Nature 429:318–322), the structure and function of Dicer is being elucidated.


RNAi Pathway Helicase Domain Scissile Bond Bacterial RNase Human Dicer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Aa-RNase III

Aquifex aeolicus RNase III






dsRNA-binding domain


Endonuclease domain

Ec-RNase III

Escherichia coli RNase III


Giardia intestinalis Dicer


Homo sapiens Agol


Homo sapiens Dicer




Piwi Argonaute Zwille


Protein Data Bank


Small interfering RNA




RNA-induced silencing complex


Root-mean-square deviation


RNA interference


Ribonuclease III


Schizosaccharomyces pombe Dicer


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xinhua Ji
    • 1
  1. 1.Macromolecular Crystallography laboratory, National Cancer InstituteNational Institutes of HealthFrederickUSA

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