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Worm. 2014 Apr 2;3:e28641. doi: 10.4161/worm.28641. eCollection 2014.

Silent no more: Endogenous small RNA pathways promote gene expression.

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Department of Molecular Genetics; University of Toronto; Toronto, ON Canada.


Endogenous small RNA pathways related to RNA interference (RNAi) play a well-documented role in protecting host genomes from the invasion of foreign nucleic acids. In C. elegans, the PIWI type Argonaute, PRG-1, through an association with 21U-RNAs, mediates a genome surveillance process by constantly scanning the genome for potentially deleterious invading elements. Upon recognition of foreign nucleic acids, PRG-1 initiates a cascade of cytoplasmic and nuclear events that results in heritable epigenetic silencing of these transcripts and their coding genomic loci. If the PRG-1/21U-RNA genome surveillance pathway has the capacity to target most of the C. elegans transcriptome, what mechanisms exist to protect endogenous transcripts from being silenced by this pathway? In this commentary, we discuss three recent publications that implicate the CSR-1 small RNA pathway in the heritable activation of germline transcripts, propose a model as to why not all epialleles behave similarly, and touch on the practical implications of these findings.


22G-RNA; CSR-1; PRG-1; RNA activation; WAGO-9/HRDE-1; argonautes; chromatin; epigenetics; piRNA; transgenerational inheritance

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