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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jun 4;116(23):11111-11112. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1904498116. Epub 2019 May 20.

Aberrant expression of select piRNA-pathway genes does not reactivate piRNA silencing in cancer cells.

Author information

1
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.
2
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 astrid.haase@nih.gov.

Abstract

Germline genes that are aberrantly expressed in nongermline cancer cells have the potential to be ideal targets for diagnosis and therapy due to their restricted physiological expression, their broad reactivation in various cancer types, and their immunogenic properties. Among such cancer/testis genes, components of the PIWI-interacting small RNA (piRNA) pathway are of particular interest, as they control mobile genetic elements (transposons) in germ cells and thus hold great potential to counteract genome instability in cancer. Here, we systematically investigate the potential reactivation of functional piRNA-silencing mechanisms in the aberrant context. While we observe expression of individual piRNA-pathway genes in cancer, we fail to detect the formation of functional piRNA-silencing complexes. Accordingly, the expression of a PIWI protein alone remains inconsequential to the cancer cell transcriptome. Our data provide a framework for the investigation of complex aberrant gene-expression signatures and establish that reactivation of piRNA silencing, if at all, is not a prevalent phenomenon in cancer cells.

KEYWORDS:

RNA; cancer; germline; piRNA; transposon

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