Two major classes of small regulatory RNAs - small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNA (miRNAs) - are involved in a common RNA interference processing pathway. Small RNAs within each of these families were found to compete for limiting amounts of shared components, required for their biogenesis and processing. Association with Argonaute (Ago), the catalytic component of the RNA silencing complex, was suggested as the central mechanistic point in RNA interference machinery competition. Aiming to better understand the competition between small RNAs in the cell, we present a mathematical model and characterize a range of specific cell and experimental parameters affecting the competition. We apply the model to competition between miRNAs and study the change in the expression level of their target genes under a variety of conditions. We show quantitatively that the amount of Ago and miRNAs in the cell are dominant factors contributing greatly to the competition. Interestingly, we observe what to our knowledge is a novel type of competition that takes place when Ago is abundant, by which miRNAs with shared targets compete over them. Furthermore, we use the model to examine different interaction mechanisms that might operate in establishing the miRNA-Ago complexes, mainly those related to their stability and recycling. Our model provides a mathematical framework for future studies of competition effects in regulation mechanisms involving small RNAs.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation and the Israel Cancer Research Fund (H.M.) and by the France-Israel Research Network Program (H.M. and O.B.).