A novel repeat-associated small interfering RNA-mediated silencing pathway downregulates complementary sense gypsy transcripts in somatic cells of the Drosophila ovary.
ABSTRACT: Replication of the gypsy endogenous retrovirus involves contamination of the female germ line by adjacent somatic tissues. This is prevented by flam, an as-yet-uncloned heterochromatic pericentromeric locus, at the level of transcript accumulation in these somatic ovarian tissues. We tested the effect of a presumptive RNA silencing mechanism on the accumulation of RNAs produced by constructs containing various gypsy sequences and report that the efficiency of silencing is indeed correlated with the amount of complementary RNAs, 25 to 30 nucleotides in length, in the ovary. For instance, while these RNAs were found to display a three- to fivefold excess of the antisense strands, only the transcripts that contain the complementary sense gypsy sequences could be repressed, indicating that they are targeted at the RNA, not DNA, level. Their size and asymmetry in strand polarity are typical of the novel repeat-associated small interfering RNA (rasiRNA)-mediated pathway, recently suspected to prevent the deleterious expression of selfish DNA specifically in the germ line. Unlike microRNAs (but like rasiRNAs and, surprisingly, siRNAs as well), gypsy rasiRNAs are modified at the 3' end. The rasiRNA-associated protein Piwi (but not Aub) is required for gypsy silencing, whereas Dicer-2 (which makes siRNAs) is not. In contrast, piwi, aub, and flam do not appear to affect somatic siRNA-mediated silencing. The amount of gypsy rasiRNAs is genetically determined by the flam locus in a provirus copy number-independent manner and is triggered in the somatic tissues by some pericentromeric provirus(es), which are thereby able to protect the germ line from retroviral invasion.
Project description:Silencing of genomic repeats, including transposable elements, in Drosophila melanogaster is mediated by repeat-associated short interfering RNAs (rasiRNAs) interacting with proteins of the Piwi subfamily. rasiRNA-based silencing is thought to be mechanistically distinct from both the RNA interference and microRNA pathways. We show that the amount of rasiRNAs of a wide range of retroelements is drastically reduced in ovaries and testes of flies carrying a mutation in the spn-E gene. To address the mechanism of rasiRNA-dependent silencing of retrotransposons, we monitored their chromatin state in ovaries and somatic tissues. This revealed that the spn-E mutation causes chromatin opening of retroelements in ovaries, resulting in an increase in histone H3 K4 dimethylation and a decrease in histone H3 K9 di/trimethylation. The strongest chromatin changes have been detected for telomeric HeT-A elements that correlates with the most dramatic increase of their transcript level, compared to other mobile elements. The spn-E mutation also causes depletion of HP1 content in the chromatin of transposable elements, especially along HeT-A arrays. We also show that mutations in the genes controlling the rasiRNA pathway cause no derepression of the same retrotransposons in somatic tissues. Our results provide evidence that germinal Piwi-associated short RNAs induce chromatin modifications of their targets.
Project description:Telomeres in Drosophila are maintained by the specialized telomeric retrotransposons HeT-A, TART and TAHRE. Sense transcripts of telomeric retroelements were shown to be the targets of a specialized RNA-interference mechanism, a repeat-associated short interfering (rasi)RNA-mediated system. Antisense rasiRNAs play a key role in this mechanism, highlighting the importance of antisense expression in retrotransposon silencing. Previously, bidirectional transcription was reported for the telomeric element TART. Here, we show that HeT-A is also bidirectionally transcribed, and HeT-A antisense transcription in ovaries is regulated by a promoter localized within its 3' untranslated region. A remarkable feature of noncoding HeT-A antisense transcripts is the presence of multiple introns. We demonstrate that sense and antisense HeT-A-specific rasiRNAs are present in the same tissue, indicating that transcripts of both directions may be considered as natural targets of the rasiRNA pathway. We found that the expression of antisense transcripts of telomeric elements is regulated by the RNA silencing machinery, suggesting rasiRNA-mediated interplay between sense and antisense transcripts in the cell. Finally, this regulation occurs in the nucleus since disruption of the rasiRNA pathway leads to an accumulation of TART and HeT-A transcripts in germ cell nuclei.
Project description:In Drosophila, the as yet uncloned heterochromatic locus flamenco (flam) controls mobilization of the endogenous retrovirus gypsy through the repeat-associated small interfering (rasi) RNA silencing pathway. Restrictive alleles (flamR) downregulate accumulation of gypsy transcripts in the somatic follicular epithelium of the ovary. In contrast, permissive alleles (flamP) are unable to repress gypsy. DIP1, the closest transcription unit to a flam-insertional mutation, was considered as a good candidate to be a gypsy regulator, since it encodes a dsRNA-binding protein. To further characterize the locus we analyzed P-induced flam mutants and generated new mutations by transposon mobilization. We show that flam is required somatically for morphogenesis of the follicular epithelium, the tissue where gypsy is repressed. This developmental activity is necessary to control gypsy and another retroelement, ZAM. We also show that flam is not DIP1, as none of the new permissive mutants affect the DIP1 coding sequence. In addition, two deletions removing DIP1 coding sequences do not affect any of the flamenco functions. Our results suggest that flamenco extends proximally to DIP1, spanning >130 kb of transposon-rich heterochromatin. We propose a model explaining the multiple functions of this large heterochromatic locus.
Project description:Repeat-associated small interfering RNAs (rasiRNAs) are derived from various genomic repetitive elements and ensure genomic stability by silencing endogenous transposable elements. Here we describe a novel subset of 46 rasiRNAs named LNCR rasiRNAs due to their homology with one long non-coding RNA (LNCR) of Spodoptera frugiperda. LNCR operates as the intermediate of an unclassified transposable element (TE-LNCR). TE-LNCR is a very invasive transposable element, present in high copy numbers in the S. frugiperda genome. LNCR rasiRNAs are single-stranded RNAs without a prominent nucleotide motif, which are organized in two distinct, strand-specific clusters. The expression of LNCR and LNCR rasiRNAs is developmentally regulated. Formation of heterochromatin in the genomic region where three copies of the TE-LNCR are embedded was followed by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and we observed this chromatin undergo dynamic changes during development. In summary, increased LNCR expression in certain developmental stages is followed by the appearance of a variety of LNCR rasiRNAs which appears to correlate with subsequent accumulation of a heterochromatic histone mark and silencing of the genomic region with TE-LNCR. These results support the notion that a repeat-associated small interfering RNA pathway is linked to heterochromatin formation and/or maintenance during development to establish repression of the TE-LNCR transposable element. This study provides insights into the rasiRNA silencing pathway and its role in the formation of fluctuating heterochromatin during the development of one holocentric organism.
Project description:Silencing of transposons in the Drosophila ovary relies on three Piwi family proteins--Piwi, Aubergine (Aub), and Ago3--acting in concert with their small RNA guides, the Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs). Aub and Ago3 are found in the germ cell cytoplasm, where they function in the ping-pong cycle to consume transposon mRNAs. The nuclear Piwi protein is required for transposon silencing in both germ and somatic follicle cells, yet the precise mechanisms by which Piwi acts remain largely unclear. We investigated the role of Piwi by combining cell type-specific knockdowns with measurements of steady-state transposon mRNA levels, nascent RNA synthesis, chromatin state, and small RNA abundance. In somatic cells, Piwi loss led to concerted effects on nascent transcripts and transposon mRNAs, indicating that Piwi acts through transcriptional gene silencing (TGS). In germ cells, Piwi loss showed disproportionate impacts on steady-state RNA levels, indicating that it also exerts an effect on post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS). Piwi knockdown affected levels of germ cell piRNAs presumably bound to Aub and Ago3, perhaps explaining its post-transcriptional impacts. Overall, our results indicate that Piwi plays multiple roles in the piRNA pathway, in part enforcing transposon repression through effects on local chromatin states and transcription but also participating in germ cell piRNA biogenesis.
Project description:In the Drosophila ovary, somatic escort cells (ECs) form a niche that promotes differentiation of germline stem cell (GSC) progeny. The piRNA (Piwi-interacting RNA) pathway, which represses transposable elements (TEs), is required in ECs to prevent the accumulation of undifferentiated germ cells (germline tumor phenotype). The soma-specific piRNA cluster flamenco (flam) produces a substantial part of somatic piRNAs. Here, we characterized the biological effects of somatic TE activation on germ cell differentiation in flam mutants. We revealed that the choice between normal and tumorous phenotypes of flam mutant ovaries depends on the number of persisting ECs, which is determined at the larval stage. Accordingly, we found much more frequent DNA breaks in somatic cells of flam larval ovaries than in adult ECs. The absence of Chk2 or ATM checkpoint kinases dramatically enhanced oogenesis defects of flam mutants, in contrast to the germline TE-induced defects that are known to be mostly suppressed by ?hk2 mutation. These results demonstrate a crucial role of checkpoint kinases in protecting niche cells against deleterious TE activation and suggest substantial differences between DNA damage responses in ovarian somatic and germ cells.
Project description:In flies, repeat-associated small interfering RNAs (rasiRNAs) ensure genomic stability by silencing endogenous selfish genetic elements such as retrotransposons and repetitive sequences. Here, we show that while small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) derive from both the sense and antisense strands of their double-stranded RNA precursors, rasiRNAs arise mainly from the antisense strand. rasiRNA production appear not to require Dicer-1, which makes microRNAs, or Dicer-2, which makes siRNAs, and rasiRNAs lack the 2´,3´ hydroxy termini characteristic of animal siRNA and miRNA. Unlike siRNAs and miRNAs, rasiRNAs function through the Piwi, rather than the Ago, Argonaute protein subfamily. Thus, rasiRNAs define a third RNA silencing pathway distinct from both the miRNA and RNAi pathways. Keywords: gene silencing; post-transcriptional gene regulation; short RNAs; RNAi; rasiRNAs; rasiRNA; microRNAs; microRNA; siRNAs; siRNA Overall design: Short RNAs homologous to several selfish genetic elements (including Su(Ste) and roo), as well as a transgenic inverse-repeat made of white exon 3, were detected using custom-made tiling microarrays. These arrays also detect microRNAs. We used them to quantify rasiRNAs and siRNAs in various genetic backgrounds. Su(Ste) rasiRNAs were quantified in crystal mutants vs. wt (two arrays, with color-reversal; wt samples for both arrays were prepared independently, as well as cry samples); in armitage mutants vs. wt (two arrays, with color-reversal; the same
Project description:Root-knot nematodes (RKNs, Meloidogyne spp.) are sedentary biotrophic pathogens that establish within the vascular cylinder of plant roots, forming a gall and inducing several feeding cells, giant cells (GCs), essential for completion of their life cycle. GCs suffer gene expression changes, repeated mitosis and endoreduplication events. Transcriptomics has revealed that an extensive down-regulation of transcripts, a molecular signature of early-developing galls and GCs that is conserved in tomato and Arabidopsis, may be achieved through small RNA (sRNA) gene silencing pathways. The role of some microRNAs (miRNAs) in plant-RKN interactions has recently been addressed, but little is known about the regulatory roles of other sRNA types. Here, we perform a differential accumulation analysis to show which repeat-associated small interfering RNAs (rasiRNAs) are distinctive or enriched in early Arabidopsis galls vs. uninfected roots. Those distinctive from galls are preferentially located in pericentromeric regions with predominant sizes of 24 and 22 nucleotides. Gall-distinctive rasiRNAs target primarily GYPSY and COPIA retrotransposons, which show a marked repression in galls vs. uninfected roots. Infection tests and phenotypic studies of galls from Meloidogyne javanica in Arabidopsis mutants impaired in post-transcriptional gene silencing and/or canonical RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathways, as well as quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis, suggest the implication of canonical and non-canonical RdDM pathways during gall formation, possibly through the regulation of retrotransposons. This process may be crucial for the maintenance of genome integrity during the reprogramming process of galls/GCs from their vascular precursor cells, and/or to ensure a faithful DNA replication during the repeated mitosis/endoreduplication that concurs with feeding site formation.
Project description:PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are effectors of transposable element (TE) silencing in the reproductive apparatus. In Drosophila ovarian somatic cells, piRNAs arise from longer single-stranded RNA precursors that are processed in the cytoplasm presumably within the Yb-bodies. piRNA precursors encoded by the flamenco (flam) piRNA cluster accumulate in a single focus away from their sites of transcription. In this study, we identify the exportin complex containing Nxf1 and Nxt1 as required for flam precursor nuclear export. Together with components of the exon junction complex (EJC), it is necessary for the efficient transfer of flam precursors away from their site of transcription. Indeed, depletion of these components greatly affects flam intra-nuclear transit. Moreover, we show that Yb-body assembly is dependent on the nucleo-cytoplasmic export of flam transcripts. These results suggest that somatic piRNA precursors are thus required for the assembly of the cytoplasmic transposon silencing machinery.
Project description:Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) and PIWI proteins play a crucial role in germ cells by repressing transposable elements and regulating gene expression. In Drosophila, maternal piRNAs are loaded into the embryo mostly bound to the PIWI protein Aubergine (Aub). Aub targets maternal mRNAs through incomplete base-pairing with piRNAs and can induce their destabilization in the somatic part of the embryo. Paradoxically, these Aub-dependent unstable mRNAs encode germ cell determinants that are selectively stabilized in the germ plasm. Here we show that piRNAs and Aub actively protect germ cell mRNAs in the germ plasm. Aub directly interacts with the germline-specific poly(A) polymerase Wispy, thus leading to mRNA polyadenylation and stabilization in the germ plasm. These results reveal a role for piRNAs in mRNA stabilization and identify Aub as an interactor of Wispy for mRNA polyadenylation. They further highlight the role of Aub and piRNAs in embryonic patterning through two opposite functions.