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RNA. 2017 Sep;23(9):1352-1364. doi: 10.1261/rna.061119.117. Epub 2017 Jun 19.

Temperature-responsive miRNAs in Drosophila orchestrate adaptation to different ambient temperatures.

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Institute of Organismic and Molecular Evolutionary Biology, Anthropology, Johannes Gutenberg University, 55099 Mainz, Germany.
Institute of Developmental Biology and Neurobiology, Johannes Gutenberg University, 55099 Mainz, Germany.


The majority of Drosophila genes are expressed in a temperature-dependent manner, but the way in which small RNAs may contribute to this effect is completely unknown as we currently lack an idea of how small RNA transcriptomes change as a function of temperature. Applying high-throughput sequencing techniques complemented by quantitative real-time PCR experiments, we demonstrate that altered ambient temperature induces drastic but reversible changes in sequence composition and total abundance of both miRNA and piRNA populations. Further, mRNA sequencing reveals that the expression of miRNAs and their predicted target transcripts correlates inversely, suggesting that temperature-responsive miRNAs drive adaptation to different ambient temperatures on the transcriptome level. Finally, we demonstrate that shifts in temperature affect both primary and secondary piRNA pools, and the observed aberrations are consistent with altered expression levels of the involved Piwi-pathway factors. We further reason that enhanced ping-pong processing at 29°C is driven by dissolved RNA secondary structures at higher temperatures, uncovering target sites that are not accessible at low temperatures. Together, our results show that small RNAs are an important part of epigenetic regulatory mechanisms that ensure homeostasis and adaptation under fluctuating environmental conditions.


Drosophila ovaries; gene expression; miRNA; piRNA; small noncoding RNAs; temperature adaptation

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