Das PP, Bagijn MP, Goldstein LD, Woolford JR, Lehrbach NJ, Sapetschnig A, Buhecha HR, Gilchrist MJ, Howe KL, Stark R, Matthews N, Berezikov E, Ketting RF, Tavaré S, Miska EA.
The Piwi proteins of the Argonaute superfamily are required for normal germline development in Drosophila, zebrafish, and mice and associate with 24-30 nucleotide RNAs termed piRNAs. We identify a class of 21 nucleotide RNAs, previously named 21U-RNAs, as the piRNAs of C. elegans. Piwi and piRNA expression is restricted to the male and female germline and independent of many proteins in other small-RNA pathways, including DCR-1. We show that Piwi is specifically required to silence Tc3, but not other Tc/mariner DNA transposons. Tc3 excision rates in the germline are increased at least 100-fold in piwi mutants as compared to wild-type. We find no evidence for a Ping-Pong model for piRNA amplification in C. elegans. Instead, we demonstrate that Piwi acts upstream of an endogenous siRNA pathway in Tc3 silencing. These data might suggest a link between piRNA and siRNA function.