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Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA. 2019 Jun 10:e1555. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1555. [Epub ahead of print]

PIWI pathway against viruses in insects.

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Insect Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology, Institute of Biosciences and Applications, National Centre for Scientific Research "Demokritos", Athens, Greece.
Molecular Developmental Physiology and Signal Transduction Research Group, Animal Physiology and Neurobiology Division, Department of Biology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Department of Plants and Crops, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are an animal-specific class of small non-coding RNAs that are generated via a biogenesis pathway distinct from small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs). There are variations in piRNA biogenesis that depend on several factors, such as the cell type (germline or soma), the organism, and the purpose for which they are being produced, such as transposon-targeting, viral-targeting, or gene-derived piRNAs. Interestingly, the genes involved in the PIWI/piRNA pathway are more rapidly evolving compared with other RNA interference (RNAi) genes. In this review, the role of the piRNA pathway in the antiviral response is reviewed based on recent findings in insect models such as Drosophila, mosquitoes, midges and the silkworm, Bombyx mori. We extensively discuss the special features that characterize host-virus piRNA responses with respect to the proteins and the genes involved, the viral piRNAs' sequence characteristics, the target strand orientation biases as well as the viral piRNA target hotspots across the viral genomes. This article is categorized under: Regulatory RNAs/RNAi/Riboswitches > RNAi: Mechanisms of Action Regulatory RNAs/RNAi/Riboswitches > Biogenesis of Effector Small RNAs.


PIWI pathway; antiviral defense; insect RNAi; small RNAs; virus-derived piRNAs


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