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Nucleic Acids Res. 2005 Apr 7;33(6):2052-9. Print 2005.

Argonaute protein PIWI controls mobilization of retrotransposons in the Drosophila male germline.

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Institute of Molecular Genetics RAS Kurchatov square 2, 123 182 Moscow, Russia.


Proteins of the Argonaute family have been identified as key components of RNA interference (RNAi) pathway. RNAi-related mechanisms are implicated in the regulation of gene expression and repression of transposable elements in eukaryotes. The piwi gene encoding protein of the Drosophila Argonaute family was shown to be required for the germ stem cells maintenance. Here, we show that piwi is involved in silencing of LTR retrotransposons in testes. piwi mutations led to derepression of endogenous retrotransposon copia as well as to upregulation of the reporter gene driven by copia LTR. piwi mutation causes accumulation of retrotransposon mdg1 transcripts at the apical tip of testes, including germinal proliferative center where PIWI protein was shown to be expressed. We applied inverse PCR approach to detect the newly arisen insertions of the mdg1 retrotransposon in the progeny of individual piwi mutant males. Owing to piwi mutation a high rate of mdg1 transpositions was revealed. Thus, piwi is involved in the silencing of retrotransposons in the precursors of male gametes. Our results provide the first evidence that protein of the Argonaute family prevents retrotranspositions. It is supposed that the disturbance of RNA silencing system in germinal cells might cause transposition burst.

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