The evolutionarily conserved piRNA-producing locus pi6 is required for male mouse fertility.
ABSTRACT: Pachytene PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), which comprise >80% of small RNAs in the adult mouse testis, have been proposed to bind and regulate target RNAs like microRNAs, cleave targets like short interfering RNAs or lack biological function altogether. Although piRNA pathway protein mutants are male sterile, no biological function has been identified for any mammalian piRNA-producing locus. Here, we report that males lacking piRNAs from a conserved mouse pachytene piRNA locus on chromosome 6 (pi6) produce sperm with defects in capacitation and egg fertilization. Moreover, heterozygous embryos sired by pi6-/- fathers show reduced viability in utero. Molecular analyses suggest that pi6 piRNAs repress gene expression by cleaving messenger RNAs encoding proteins required for sperm function. pi6 also participates in a network of piRNA-piRNA precursor interactions that initiate piRNA production from a second piRNA locus on chromosome 10, as well as pi6 itself. Our data establish a direct role for pachytene piRNAs in spermiogenesis and embryo viability.
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:Pachytene piRNAs are MIWI-/MILI-bound small RNAs abundantly expressed in pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids in adult mouse testes. Miwi knockout (KO) male mice are sterile due to spermiogenic arrest. In Caenorhabditis elegans, sperm-borne piRNAs appear to have an epigenetic role during fertilization and development because progeny of individuals with piRNA-deficient gametes display a progressive loss of fertility after several generations. In mice, it remains unknown whether pachytene piRNA-deficient round spermatids can produce offspring, and whether the progeny of Miwi mutants also exhibits transgenerational, progressive fertility loss. Here, we report that Miwi KO round spermatids could fertilize both wild-type (WT) and Miwi KO oocytes through round spermatid injection, and could produce healthy and fertile offspring despite the global downregulation of both MIWI-/MILI-bound pachytene piRNAs. Progeny of ROSI-derived heterozygotes, both male and female, displayed normal fertility for at least three generations when bred with either WT or Miwi KO females. Our data indicate that aberrant MIWI-/MILI-bound pachytene piRNA profiles in spermatids do not affect fertilization, early embryonic development, or fertility of the offspring, suggesting that pachytene piRNAs might not be required for paternal transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in mice.
Project description:In the fetal mouse testis, PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) guide PIWI proteins to silence transposons but, after birth, most post-pubertal pachytene piRNAs map to the genome uniquely and are thought to regulate genes required for male fertility. In the human male, the developmental classes, precise genomic origins and transcriptional regulation of postnatal piRNAs remain undefined. Here, we demarcate the genes and transcripts that produce postnatal piRNAs in human juvenile and adult testes. As in the mouse, human A-MYB drives transcription of both pachytene piRNA precursor transcripts and messenger RNAs encoding piRNA biogenesis factors. Although human piRNA genes are syntenic to those in other placental mammals, their sequences are poorly conserved. In fact, pachytene piRNA loci are rapidly diverging even among modern humans. Our findings suggest that, during mammalian evolution, pachytene piRNA genes are under few selective constraints. We speculate that pachytene piRNA diversity may provide a hitherto unrecognized driver of reproductive isolation.
Project description:In the male germ cells of placental mammals, 26-30-nt-long PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) emerge when spermatocytes enter the pachytene phase of meiosis. In mice, pachytene piRNAs derive from ~100 discrete autosomal loci that produce canonical RNA polymerase II transcripts. These piRNA clusters bear 5' caps and 3' poly(A) tails, and often contain introns that are removed before nuclear export and processing into piRNAs. What marks pachytene piRNA clusters to produce piRNAs, and what confines their expression to the germline? We report that an unusually long first exon (? 10?kb) or a long, unspliced transcript correlates with germline-specific transcription and piRNA production. Our integrative analysis of transcriptome, piRNA, and epigenome datasets across multiple species reveals that a long first exon is an evolutionarily conserved feature of pachytene piRNA clusters. Furthermore, a highly methylated promoter, often containing a low or intermediate level of CG dinucleotides, correlates with germline expression and somatic silencing of pachytene piRNA clusters. Pachytene piRNA precursor transcripts bind THOC1 and THOC2, THO complex subunits known to promote transcriptional elongation and mRNA nuclear export. Together, these features may explain why the major sources of pachytene piRNA clusters specifically generate these unique small RNAs in the male germline of placental mammals.
Project description:Piwi-interacting RNAs are a diverse class of small non-coding RNAs implicated in the silencing of transposable elements and the safeguarding of genome integrity. In mammals, male germ cells express two genetically and developmentally distinct populations of piRNAs at the pre-pachytene and pachytene stages of meiosis, respectively. Pre-pachytene piRNAs are mostly derived from retrotransposons and required for their silencing. In contrast, pachytene piRNAs originate from ~3,000 genomic clusters, and their biogenesis and function remain enigmatic. Here, we report that conditional inactivation of the putative RNA helicase MOV10L1 in mouse spermatocytes produces a specific loss of pachytene piRNAs, significant accumulation of pachytene piRNA precursor transcripts, and unusual polar conglomeration of Piwi proteins with mitochondria. Pachytene piRNA-deficient spermatocytes progress through meiosis without derepression of LINE1 retrotransposons, but become arrested at the post-meiotic round spermatid stage with massive DNA damage. Our results demonstrate that MOV10L1 acts upstream of Piwi proteins in the primary processing of pachytene piRNAs and suggest that, distinct from pre-pachytene piRNAs, pachytene piRNAs fulfill a unique function in maintaining post-meiotic genome integrity.
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:Spermatogenesis in mammals is characterized by two waves of piRNA expression: one corresponds to classic piRNAs responsible for silencing retrotransponsons and the second wave is predominantly derived from nontransposon intergenic regions in pachytene spermatocytes, but the function of these pachytene piRNAs is largely unknown. Here, we report the involvement of pachytene piRNAs in instructing massive mRNA elimination in mouse elongating spermatids (ES). We demonstrate that a piRNA-induced silencing complex (pi-RISC) containing murine PIWI (MIWI) and deadenylase CAF1 is selectively assembled in ES, which is responsible for inducing mRNA deadenylation and decay via a mechanism that resembles the action of miRNAs in somatic cells. Such a highly orchestrated program appears to take full advantage of the enormous repertoire of diversified targeting capacity of pachytene piRNAs derived from nontransposon intergenic regions. These findings suggest that pachytene piRNAs are responsible for inactivating vast cellular programs in preparation for sperm production from ES.
Project description:Previous studies suggested that the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) contributes to mice reproduction and fertility. However, the mechanisms involved remain mostly unknown. Retrotransposon silencing by Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) is essential for germ cell maturation and, remarkably, AhR has been identified as a regulator of murine B1-SINE retrotransposons. Here, using littermate AhR+/+ and AhR-/- mice, we report that AhR regulates the general course of spermatogenesis and oogenesis by a mechanism likely to be associated with piRNA-associated proteins, piRNAs and retrotransposons. piRNA-associated proteins MVH and Miwi are upregulated in leptotene to pachytene spermatocytes with a more precocious timing in AhR-/- than in AhR+/+ testes. piRNAs and transcripts from B1-SINE, LINE-1 and IAP retrotransposons increased at these meiotic stages in AhR-null testes. Moreover, B1-SINE transcripts colocalize with MVH and Miwi in leptonema and pachynema spermatocytes. Unexpectedly, AhR-/- males have increased sperm counts, higher sperm functionality and enhanced fertility than AhR+/+ mice. In contrast, piRNA-associated proteins and B1-SINE and IAP-derived transcripts are reduced in adult AhR-/- ovaries. Accordingly, AhR-null female mice have lower numbers of follicles when compared with AhR+/+ mice. Thus, AhR deficiency differentially affects testis and ovary development possibly by a process involving piRNA-associated proteins, piRNAs and transposable elements.
Project description:Small RNAs mediate gene silencing by binding Argonaute/Piwi proteins to regulate target RNAs. Here we describe small RNA profiling of the adult testes of Callithrix jacchus, the common marmoset. The most abundant class of small RNAs in the adult testis was piRNAs, while 353 novel miRNAs but few endo-siRNAs were also identified. MARWI, a marmoset homolog of mouse MIWI and a very abundant PIWI in adult testes, associates with piRNAs that show characteristics of mouse pachytene piRNAs. As in other mammals, most marmoset piRNAs are derived from conserved clustered regions in the genome, which are annotated as intergenic regions. However, some of these piRNA cluster regions contain antisense-orientated pseudogenes, suggesting regulation of parental functional protein-coding genes. More piRNAs map to transposable element (TE) subfamilies when they have copies in piRNA clusters. In addition, the strand-bias observed for piRNAs mapped to each TE subfamily correlates with the polarity of copies inserted in clusters. These findings suggest that pachytene piRNA clusters determine the abundance and strand-bias of TE-derived piRNAs, and also regulate protein-coding genes via pseudogene-derived piRNAs. small RNA levels in the adult marmoset testis, and MARWI-IP small RNA levels and RNA levels from the adult marmoset testis with two replicates.
Project description:In germ cells, early embryos, and stem cells of animals, PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) have an important role in silencing retrotransposons, which are vicious genomic parasites, through transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms. To examine whether the piRNA pathway can be used to silence genes of interest in germ cells, we have generated knock-in mice in which a foreign DNA fragment was inserted into a region generating pachytene piRNAs. The knock-in sequence was transcribed, and the resulting RNA was processed to yield piRNAs in postnatal testes. When reporter genes possessing a sequence complementary to portions of the knock-in sequence were introduced, they were greatly repressed after the time of pachytene piRNA generation. This repression mainly occurred at the post-transcriptional level, as degradation of the reporter RNAs was accelerated. Our results show that the piRNA pathway can be used as a tool for sequence-specific gene silencing in germ cells and support the idea that the piRNA generating regions serve as traps for retrotransposons, enabling the host cell to generate piRNAs against active retrotransposons.