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J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 2018 Jul;330(5):288-295. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.22815. Epub 2018 Jul 5.

Diversity of piRNA expression patterns during the ontogeny of the German cockroach.

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Institute of Evolutionary Biology, CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Microbiology and Cell Science, Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences, Genetics Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
Department of Biosciences, University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia, Vic, Barcelona, Spain.


The Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) system is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism involved in the control of transposable elements and maintenance of genomic stability, especially in germ line cells and in early embryo stages. However, relevant particularities, both in mechanism and function, exist across species among metazoans and even within the insect class. As a member of the scarcely studied hemimetabolan group, Blattella germanica can be a suitable reference model to study insect evolution. We present the results of a stringent process of identification and study of expressed piRNAs for B. germanica across 11 developmental stages, ranging from unfertilized egg to nymphs and adult female. Our results confirm the dual origin of piRNA in this species, with a majority of them being generated from the primary pathway, and a smaller but highly expressed set of sequences participating in the secondary ("ping-pong") reamplification pathway. An intriguing partial complementarity in expression is observed between the piRNA of the two biogenesis pathways, with those generated in the secondary pathway being quite restricted to early embryo stages. In addition, many piRNAs are exclusively expressed in late embryo and nymphal stages. These observations point at piRNA functions beyond the role of transposon control in early embryogenesis. Our work supports the view of a more complex scenario, with different sets of piRNAs acting in different times and having a range of functions wider than previously thought.


Blattella germanica; embryo development; hemimetabola; maternal-zygotic transition; small noncoding RNA


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