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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Sep 5;103(36):13415-20. Epub 2006 Aug 24.

MIWI associates with translational machinery and PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) in regulating spermatogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Duke University Medical School, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Noncoding small RNAs have emerged as important regulators of gene expression at both transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels. Particularly, microRNA (miRNA)-mediated translational repression involving PIWI/Argonaute family proteins has been widely recognized as a novel mechanism of gene regulation. We previously reported that MIWI, a murine PIWI family member, is required for initiating spermiogenesis, a process that transforms round spermatids into mature sperm. MIWI is a cytoplasmic protein present in spermatocytes and round spermatids, and it is required for the expression of its target mRNAs involved in spermiogenesis. Most recently, we discovered a class of noncoding small RNAs called PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) that are abundantly expressed during spermiogenesis in a MIWI-dependent fashion. Here, we show that MIWI associates with both piRNAs and mRNAs in cytosolic ribonucleoprotein and polysomal fractions. As polysomes increase in early spermiogenesis, MIWI increases in polysome fractions. Moreover, MIWI associates with the mRNA cap-binding complex. Interestingly, MIWI is required for the expression of not only piRNAs but also a subset of miRNAs, despite the presence of Dicer. These results suggest that MIWI has a complicated role in the biogenesis and/or maintenance of two distinct types of small RNAs. Together, our results indicate that MIWI, a PIWI subfamily protein, uses piRNA as the major, but not exclusive, binding partner, and it is associated with translational machinery.

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