Characterisation of novel prokaryotic Argonaute Systems

Prokaryotes are under constant threat of invading nucleic acids such as viruses and plasmids. To withstand infection by these nucleic acids, prokaryotes have evolved different host-defense mechanisms such as restriction modification systems, abortive infection systems, CRISPR-Cas system and the recently discover prokaryotic Argonautes (pAgo). This research will focus on the characterization of the molecular mechanisms and function of unexplored pAgos.


Argonaute proteins were first discovered in eukaryotes (eAgos), where they play a key role in RNA interference (RNAi) as the core of the RNA interference silencing complex. eAgos use a small RNA guide for silencing of cognate mRNA or to provide host defense against viruses and transposable elements.  

Argonaute proteins were also found in prokaryotes (pAgos). However, other components essential for eukaryotic RNAi are absent in prokaryotes. Recently it has been demonstrated that pAgos can function as programmable host-defense systems. Contrary to eAgos (RNA-guided RNA-target), different pAgos can also utilize DNA guides to target DNA invaders. However, the characterization of different pAgos has only started and many aspects of their roles and mechanisms remains to be elucidated. 

Aim of the project

The aim of the project is to unravel the function, structure, and molecular mechanisms of novel pAgo  

As a thesis student you could learn and practice different in vivo and in vitro  techniques such as: 

  • Cloning 
  • Protein expression
  • Protein purification
  • Crystallography
  • Biochemical characterization


Do you have a question about argonautes, or would you like to join us as a student researcher? Please contact us.