Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A milestone in small RNA biology: piRNA biogenesis from start to finish

17.11.2016

Organisms are in a constant battle against viruses, or transposable elements, which invade their genomes. Among their most effective weapons are silencing pathways that use small RNAs to selectively target invading nucleic acids for their destruction. The molecular understanding of these defense systems has revolutionized modern molecular biology, as they are the basis for powerful genome editing and gene silencing methods such as CRISPR/Cas9 or RNA interference. Scientists from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna (IMBA) have now unravelled the precise mechanisms by which germline cells produce a class of small RNAs, called piRNAs, that control transposon silencing in animals.

PIWI-interacting RNAs, or piRNAs for short, are a class of ‘small regulatory RNAs’—tiny pieces of nucleic acid just 22–30 nucleotides in length. They may be small, but with their associated Argonaute proteins, piRNAs have the power to ‘silence’ transposable elements, so called egoistic genes found in the genomes of plants, fungi, and animals. piRNA-guided silencing can act on chromatin to block transposon transcription, or by destroying transposon mRNAs in order to block their translation into proteins.


A melody played by two hands: Two evolutionarily ancient parallel pathways make up the 3’end of piRNAs. This illustration by Beata Mierzwa compares piRNA 3’ end formation to a piece of music where two pathways - involving Zucchini and Nibbler - play simultaneously to generate a diverse pool of piRNAs. The sheet music encodes characteristic nucleotide patters of the emerging piRNAs.

Although scientists understand quite well how piRNAs repress gene expression, until now, it has been much less clear how piRNAs are actually made. In a milestone research paper published in Nature, scientists from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Austria (IMBA) have painstakingly unravelled the sequence of events that generate piRNAs with a defined length and sequence, a central requirement to define the target spectrum of the silencing system.

Mystery of piRNA biogenesis explained
Julius Brennecke, one of the paper’s senior authors, explained:
“We already knew that piRNAs are formed from longer RNA species that are chopped up into pieces by Argonaute proteins or a protein called Zucchini. This forms the 5' ends of so-called pre-piRNAs, which are loaded into Argonaute proteins and subsequently trimmed and modified to yield mature piRNAs. As we had a fairly good understanding of the generation of piRNA 5' ends, our group focused on the 3' ends, a process that was not understood for nearly ten years.”

Using the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, a major genetic model organism, IMBA scientists Rippei Hayashi and Jakob Schnabl—both first authors of the article—revealed that piRNA 3' end formation in fact follows one of two parallel pathways.

“Once biogenesis is initiated, some piRNA 3' ends are actually generated by Zucchini, the endonuclease that is primarily known to generate piRNA 5' ends”, said last author Stefan Ameres. “But Zucchini explains the biogenesis of only a subset of piRNAs. We then discovered that the exonuclease Nibbler is a second key-enzyme that can form piRNA 3' ends and realized that two genetically separated pathways act in parallel in the cell. This was a true deja vu as we also found Nibbler to mature some microRNAs, yet another class of small RNA molecules, during my postdoctoral work.”

Two parallel pathways in tune
Beyond unravelling these pathways, their place of action, and their implications for downstream gene regulatory mechanisms, the team also made some interesting observations that might provide clues as to the evolution of small RNA biogenesis. “The nucleases we’ve identified in this study have homologs in animals ranging from sponges to human. Interestingly, some notable exceptions are apparent. Nematode worms, for example, have lost the Zucchini enzyme, and mosquitos from the Anopheles genus have lost Nibbler. Whether here other piRNA trimming mechanisms exist or whether in these species the two-pathway model is reduced to one, is unclear. Remarkably, upon simultaneous ablation of Zucchini and Nibbler in Drosophila, piRNAs can still be generated, in this case by closely spaced piRNA-guided Argonaute cleavage events. This Argonaute-only pathway might be the ancient piRNA generating system, onto which sophisticated nucleases like Zucchini and Nibbler were added later to enhance efficiency and accuracy of piRNA biogenesis,” concludes Julius Brennecke.

Original publication:
“'Genetic and mechanistic diversity of piRNA 3'-end formation'”, Rippei Hayashi, Jakob Schnabl, Dominik Handler, Fabio Mohn, Stefan L. Ameres & Julius Brennecke, Nature, November 16, 2016; doi: 10.1038/nature20162

Weitere Informationen:

http://de.imba.oeaw.ac.at/index.php?id=516

Mag. Ines Méhu-Blantar | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Kidney tumor: Genetic trigger discovered
18.06.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht New type of photosynthesis discovered
18.06.2018 | Imperial College London

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel method for investigating pore geometry in rocks

18.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Diamond watch components

18.06.2018 | Process Engineering

New type of photosynthesis discovered

18.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>