Biogenesis and germline functions of piRNAs

Program in Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.
Development (Impact Factor: 6.27). 02/2008; 135(1):3-9. DOI: 10.1242/dev.006486
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Small interfering RNAs and microRNAs are generated from double-stranded RNA precursors by the Dicer endonucleases, and function with Argonaute-family proteins to target transcript destruction or to silence translation. A distinct class of 24- to 30-nucleotide-long RNAs, produced by a Dicer-independent mechanism, associates with Piwi-class Argonaute proteins. Studies in flies, fish and mice implicate these Piwi-associated RNAs (piRNAs) in germline development, silencing of selfish DNA elements, and in maintaining germline DNA integrity. However, whether piRNAs primarily control chromatin organization, gene transcription, RNA stability or RNA translation is not well understood, neither is piRNA biogenesis. Here, we review recent studies of piRNA production and function, and discuss unanswered questions about this intriguing new class of small RNAs.

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    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Gene Regulatory Mechanisms 04/2014; · 5.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The maternally expressed Drosophila melanogaster DEAD-box helicase Vasa (Vas) is necessary for many cellular and developmental processes, including specification of primordial germ cells (pole cells), posterior patterning of the embryo, piRNA-mediated repression of transposon-encoded mRNAs, translational activation of gurken (grk) mRNA, and completion of oogenesis itself. Vas protein accumulates in the perinuclear nuage in nurse cells soon after their specification, and then at stage 10 Vas translocates to the posterior pole plasm of the oocyte. We produced a series of transgenic constructs encoding eGFP-Vas proteins carrying mutations affecting different regions of the protein, and analyzed in vivo which Vas functions each could support. We identified novel domains in the N- and C-terminal regions of the protein that are essential for localization, transposon repression, posterior patterning, and pole cell specification. One such functional region, the most C-terminal seven amino acids, is specific to Vas orthologues and is thus critical to distinguishing Vas from other closely related DEAD-box helicases. Surprisingly, we also found that many eGFP-Vas proteins carrying mutations that would be expected to abrogate DEAD-box helicase function localized to the nuage and posterior pole, and retained the capacity to support oogenesis, although they did not function in embryonic patterning, pole cell specification, grk activation, or transposon repression. We conclude from these experiments that Vas, a multifunctional protein, uses different domains and different molecular associations to carry out its various cellular and developmental roles. © 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.
    03/2015; DOI:10.1242/bio.201410579