A novel class of somatic small RNAs similar to germ cell pachytene PIWI-interacting small RNAs.
ABSTRACT: PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that bind PIWI family proteins exclusively expressed in the germ cells of mammalian gonads. MIWI2-associated piRNAs are essential for silencing transposons during primordial germ cell development, and MIWI-bound piRNAs are required for normal spermatogenesis during adulthood in mice. Although piRNAs have long been regarded as germ cell-specific, increasing lines of evidence suggest that somatic cells also express piRNA-like RNAs (pilRNAs). Here, we report the detection of abundant pilRNAs in somatic cells, which are similar to MIWI-associated piRNAs mainly expressed in pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids in the testis. Based on small RNA deep sequencing and quantitative PCR analyses, pilRNA expression is dynamic and displays tissue specificity. Although pilRNAs are similar to pachytene piRNAs in both size and genomic origins, they have a distinct ping-pong signature. Furthermore, pilRNA biogenesis appears to utilize a yet to be identified pathway, which is different from all currently known small RNA biogenetic pathways. In addition, pilRNAs appear to preferentially target the 3'-UTRs of mRNAs in a partially complementary manner. Our data suggest that pilRNAs, as an integral component of the small RNA transcriptome in somatic cell lineages, represent a distinct population of small RNAs that may have functions similar to germ cell piRNAs.
Project description:Germ cells implement elaborate mechanisms to protect their genetic material and to regulate gene expression during differentiation. Piwi proteins bind Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), small germline RNAs whose biogenesis and functions are still largely elusive. We used high-throughput sequencing after cross-linking and immunoprecipitation (HITS-CLIP) coupled with RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) to characterize the genome-wide target RNA repertoire of Mili (Piwil2) and Miwi (Piwil1), two Piwi proteins expressed in mouse postnatal testis. We report the in vivo pathway of primary piRNA biogenesis and implicate distinct nucleolytic activities that process Piwi-bound precursor transcripts. Our studies indicate that pachytene piRNAs are the end products of RNA processing. HITS-CLIP demonstrated that Miwi binds spermiogenic mRNAs directly, without using piRNAs as guides, and independent biochemical analyses of testis mRNA ribonucleoproteins (mRNPs) established that Miwi functions in the formation of mRNP complexes that stabilize mRNAs essential for spermiogenesis.
Project description:PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) engage PIWI proteins to silence transposons and promote germ cell development in animals. In diverse species, piRNA biogenesis occurs near the mitochondrial surface, and involves mitochondrial membrane-anchored factors. In mice, two cytoplasmic PIWI proteins, MIWI and MILI, receive processed pachytene piRNAs at intermitochodrial cement (IMC). However, how MIWI and MILI are initially recruited to the IMC to engage multiple steps of piRNA processing is unclear. Here, we show that mitochondria-anchored TDRKH controls multiple steps of pachytene piRNA biogenesis in mice. TDRKH specifically recruits MIWI, but not MILI, to engage the piRNA pathway. It is required for the production of the entire MIWI-bound piRNA population and enables trimming of MILI-bound piRNAs. The failure to recruit MIWI to the IMC with TDRKH deficiency results in loss of MIWI in the chromatoid body, leading to spermiogenic arrest and piRNA-independent retrotransposon LINE1 de-repression in round spermatids. Our findings identify a mitochondrial surface-based scaffolding mechanism separating the entry and actions of two critical PIWI proteins in the same piRNA pathway to drive piRNA biogenesis and germ cell development.
Project description:Animal germ cells produce PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), small silencing RNAs that suppress transposons and enable gamete maturation. Mammalian transposon-silencing piRNAs accumulate early in spermatogenesis, whereas pachytene piRNAs are produced later during postnatal spermatogenesis and account for >95% of all piRNAs in the adult mouse testis. Mutants defective for pachytene piRNA pathway proteins fail to produce mature sperm, but neither the piRNA precursor transcripts nor the trigger for pachytene piRNA production is known. Here, we show that the transcription factor A-MYB initiates pachytene piRNA production. A-MYB drives transcription of both pachytene piRNA precursor RNAs and the mRNAs for core piRNA biogenesis factors including MIWI, the protein through which pachytene piRNAs function. A-MYB regulation of piRNA pathway proteins and piRNA genes creates a coherent feedforward loop that ensures the robust accumulation of pachytene piRNAs. This regulatory circuit, which can be detected in rooster testes, likely predates the divergence of birds and mammals.
Project description:Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) comprise a broad class of small noncoding RNAs that function as an endogenous defense system against transposable elements. Here we show that the putative DExD-box helicase MOV10-like-1 (MOV10L1) is essential for silencing retrotransposons in the mouse male germline. Mov10l1 is specifically expressed in germ cells with increasing expression from gonocytes/type A spermatogonia to pachytene spermatocytes. Primary spermatocytes of Mov10l1(-/-) mice show activation of LTR and LINE-1 retrotransposons, followed by cell death, causing male infertility and a complete block of spermatogenesis at early prophase of meiosis I. Despite the early expression of Mov10l1, germline stem cell maintenance appears unaffected in Mov10l1(-/-) mice. MOV10L1 interacts with the Piwi proteins MILI and MIWI. MOV10L1 also interacts with heat shock 70-kDa protein 2 (HSPA2), a testis-enriched chaperone expressed in pachytene spermatocytes and also essential for male fertility. These studies reveal a crucial role of MOV10L1 in male fertility and piRNA-directed retrotransposon silencing in male germ cells and suggest that MOV10L1 functions as a key component of a safeguard mechanism for the genetic information in male germ cells of mammals.
Project description:Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are a class of small RNAs; distinct types of piRNAs are expressed in the mammalian testis at different stages of development. The function of piRNAs expressed in the adult testis is not well established. We conducted a detailed characterization of piRNAs aligning at or near the 3' UTRs of protein-coding genes in a deep dataset of small RNAs from adult mouse testis.We identified 2710 piRNA clusters associated with 3' UTRs, including 1600 that overlapped genes not previously associated with piRNAs. 35% of the clusters extend beyond the annotated transcript; we find that these clusters correspond to, and are likely derived from, novel polyadenylated mRNA isoforms that contain previously unannotated extended 3'UTRs. Extended 3' UTRs, and small RNAs derived from them, are also present in somatic tissues; a subset of these somatic 3'UTR small RNA clusters are absent in mice lacking MIWI2, indicating a role for MIWI2 in the metabolism of somatic small RNAs.The finding that piRNAs are processed from extended 3' UTRs suggests a role for piRNAs in the remodeling of 3' UTRs. The presence of both clusters and extended 3'UTRs in somatic cells, with evidence for involvement of MIWI2, indicates that this pathway is more broadly distributed than currently appreciated.
Project description:Silencing of transposable elements occurs during fetal gametogenesis in males via de novo DNA methylation of their regulatory regions. The loss of MILI (miwi-like) and MIWI2 (mouse piwi 2), two mouse homologs of Drosophila Piwi, activates retrotransposon gene expression by impairing DNA methylation in the regulatory regions of the retrotransposons. However, as it is unclear whether the defective DNA methylation in the mutants is due to the impairment of de novo DNA methylation, we analyze DNA methylation and Piwi-interacting small RNA (piRNA) expression in wild-type, MILI-null, and MIWI2-null male fetal germ cells. We reveal that defective DNA methylation of the regulatory regions of the Line-1 (long interspersed nuclear elements) and IAP (intracisternal A particle) retrotransposons in the MILI-null and MIWI2-null male germ cells takes place at the level of de novo methylation. Comprehensive analysis shows that the piRNAs of fetal germ cells are distinct from those previously identified in neonatal and adult germ cells. The expression of piRNAs is reduced under MILI- and MIWI2-null conditions in fetal germ cells, although the extent of the reduction differs significantly between the two mutants. Our data strongly suggest that MILI and MIWI2 play essential roles in establishing de novo DNA methylation of retrotransposons in fetal male germ cells.
Project description:Pachytene piRNAs are a class of Piwi-interacting small RNAs abundant in spermatids of the adult mouse testis. They are processed from piRNA primary transcripts by a poorly understood mechanism and, unlike fetal transposon-derived piRNAs, lack complementary targets in the spermatid transcriptome. We report that immunopurified complexes of a conserved piRNA pathway protein Maelstrom (MAEL) are enriched in MIWI (Piwi partner of pachytene piRNAs), Tudor-domain proteins and processing intermediates of pachytene piRNA primary transcripts. We provide evidence of functional significance of these complexes in Mael129 knockout mice that exhibit spermiogenic arrest with acrosome and flagellum malformation. Mael129-null mutant testes possess low levels of piRNAs derived from MAEL-associated piRNA precursors and exhibit reduced translation of numerous spermiogenic mRNAs including those encoding acrosome and flagellum proteins. These translation defects in haploid round spermatids are likely indirect, as neither MAEL nor piRNA precursors associate with polyribosomes, and they may arise from an imbalance between pachytene piRNAs and MIWI.
Project description:Small noncoding RNAs, including small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and micro RNAs (miRNAs) of approximately 21 nucleotides (nt) in length, have emerged as potent regulators of gene expression at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels in diverse organisms. Here we report the identification of a novel class of small RNAs in the mouse male germline termed piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs). piRNAs are approximately 30 nt in length. They are expressed during spermatogenesis, mostly in spermatids. piRNAs are associated with MIWI, a spermatogenesis-specific PIWI subfamily member of the Argonaute protein family, and depend on MIWI for their biogenesis and/or stability. Furthermore, a subpopulation of piRNAs are associated with polysomes, suggesting their potential role in translational regulation.
Project description:Piwi proteins and Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) repress transposition, regulate translation, and guide epigenetic programming in the germline. Here, we show that an evolutionarily conserved Tudor and KH domain-containing protein, Tdrkh (a.k.a. Tdrd2), is required for spermatogenesis and involved in piRNA biogenesis. Tdrkh partners with Miwi and Miwi2 via symmetrically dimethylated arginine residues in Miwi and Miwi2. Tdrkh is a mitochondrial protein often juxtaposed to pi-bodies and piP-bodies and is required for Tdrd1 cytoplasmic localization and Miwi2 nuclear localization. Tdrkh mutants display meiotic arrest at the zygotene stage, attenuate methylation of Line1 DNA, and upregulate Line1 RNA and protein, without inducing apoptosis. Furthermore, Tdrkh mutants have severely reduced levels of mature piRNAs but accumulate a distinct population of 1'U-containing, 2'O-methylated 31-37?nt RNAs that largely complement the missing mature piRNAs. Our results demonstrate that the primary piRNA biogenesis pathway involves 3'?5' processing of 31-37?nt intermediates and that Tdrkh promotes this final step of piRNA biogenesis but not the ping-pong cycle. These results shed light on mechanisms underlying primary piRNA biogenesis, an area in which information is conspicuously absent.
Project description:Nuage are amorphous ultrastructural granules in the cytoplasm of male germ cells as divergent as Drosophila, Xenopus, and Homo sapiens. Most nuage are cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein structures implicated in diverse RNA metabolism including the regulation of PIWI-interacting RNA (piRNA) synthesis by the PIWI family (i.e., MILI, MIWI2, and MIWI). MILI is prominent in embryonic and early post-natal germ cells in nuage also called germinal granules that are often associated with mitochondria and called intermitochondrial cement. We find that GASZ (Germ cell protein with Ankyrin repeats, Sterile alpha motif, and leucine Zipper) co-localizes with MILI in intermitochondrial cement. Knockout of Gasz in mice results in a dramatic downregulation of MILI, and phenocopies the zygotene-pachytene spermatocyte block and male sterility defect observed in MILI null mice. In Gasz null testes, we observe increased hypomethylation and expression of retrotransposons similar to MILI null testes. We also find global shifts in the small RNAome, including down-regulation of repeat-associated, known, and novel piRNAs. These studies provide the first evidence for an essential structural role for GASZ in male fertility and epigenetic and post-transcriptional silencing of retrotransposons by stabilizing MILI in nuage.