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Accession IconSRP009871

piRNA-mediated transgenerational inheritance of an acquired trait

Organism Icon Drosophila melanogaster
Sample Icon 6 Downloadable Samples
Technology Badge IconIllumina Genome Analyzer II, Illumina HiSeq 2000

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The maintenance of genome integrity is an essential trait to the successful transmission of genetic information. In animal germ cells, piRNAs guide PIWI proteins to silence transposable elements (TEs) in order to maintain genome integrity. In insects, most of TE silencing in the germline is achieved by secondary piRNAs that are produced by a feed-forward loop (the ping-pong cycle), which requires the piRNA-directed cleavages of two types of RNAs: mRNAs of functional euchromatic TEs and heterochromatic transcripts that contain defective TE sequences. The first cleavage which initiates such amplification loop remains poorly understood. Taking advantage of the existence of strains that are devoid of functional copies of the LINE-like I-element, we report that in such Drosophila ovaries, the initiation of a ping-pong cycle is achieved only by secondary I-element piRNAs that are produced in the ovary and deposited in the embryonic germline. This unusual secondary piRNA biogenesis, detected in the absence of functional I-element copies, results from the processing of sense and antisense transcripts of several different defective I-elements. Once acquired, for instance after ancestor aging, this capacity to produce heterochromatic-only secondary piRNAs is partially transmitted through generations via maternal piRNAs. Furthermore, such piRNAs acting as ping-pong initiators in a chromatin-independent manner confer to the progeny a high capacity to repress the I-element mobility. Our study explains at the molecular level the basis for epigenetic memory of maternal immunity that protects females from hybrid dysgenesis caused by transposition of paternally inherited functional I-elements. Overall design: Comparison of Drosophila small RNA populations in ovaries and/or eggs from 3-day-old or 25-day-old females.
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