It only takes one thermostat malfunction to appreciate its importance and the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway is like a thermostat that, instead of controlling temperature, regulates the amounts of thousands of molecular workers inside a body’s billions of cells. If it malfunctions, cancer or other diseases can develop. In addition to being a fundamental life process, RNAi’s ability to silence specific genes makes it a powerful experimental and therapeutic tool. At its center is a protein called Argonaute (Ago). Ago works by binding small RNAs (including microRNAs (miRNAs) and siRNAs) which serve as guides, enabling it to find and bind partially or fully-complementary sequences in target messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Then, alone or with the help of cofactors, Ago can prevent those mRNAs from being used as recipes to make proteins. I study how Ago does all this awesomeness and here’s an intro…

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