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Science. 2006 Jul 21;313(5785):363-7. Epub 2006 Jun 15.

Characterization of the piRNA complex from rat testes.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, 185 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Small noncoding RNAs regulate processes essential for cell growth and development, including mRNA degradation, translational repression, and transcriptional gene silencing (TGS). During a search for candidate mammalian factors for TGS, we purified a complex that contains small RNAs and Riwi, the rat homolog to human Piwi. The RNAs, frequently 29 to 30 nucleotides in length, are called Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), 94% of which map to 100 defined (< or = 101 kb) genomic regions. Within these regions, the piRNAs generally distribute across only one genomic strand or distribute on two strands but in a divergent, nonoverlapping manner. Preparations of piRNA complex (piRC) contain rRecQ1, which is homologous to qde-3 from Neurospora, a gene implicated in silencing pathways. Piwi has been genetically linked to TGS in flies, and slicer activity cofractionates with the purified complex. These results are consistent with a gene-silencing role for piRC in mammals.

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