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EMBO J. 2009 Oct 7;28(19):2945-58. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2009.237. Epub 2009 Aug 27.

Systematic and single cell analysis of Xenopus Piwi-interacting RNAs and Xiwi.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.

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  • EMBO J. 2009 Nov 4;28(21):3458.


Piwi proteins and Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are essential for germ cell development, but analysis of the molecular mechanisms of these ribonucleoproteins remains challenging in most animal germ cells. To address this challenge, we systematically characterized Xiwi, a Xenopus Piwi homologue, and piRNAs from Xenopus eggs and oocytes. We used the large size of Xenopus eggs to analyze small RNAs at the single cell level, and find abundant piRNAs and large piRNA clusters in the Xenopus tropicalis genome, some of which resemble the Drosophila piRNA-generating flamenco locus. Although most piRNA clusters are expressed simultaneously in an egg, individual frogs show distinct profiles of cluster expression. Xiwi is associated with microtubules and the meiotic spindle, and is localized to the germ plasm--a cytoplasmic determinant of germ cell formation. Xiwi associates with translational regulators in an RNA-dependent manner, but Xenopus tudor interacts with Xiwi independently of RNA. Our study adds insight to piRNA transcription regulation by showing that individual animals can have differential piRNA expression profiles. We suggest that in addition to regulating transposable elements, Xiwi may function in specifying RNA localization in vertebrate oocytes.

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