Argonautes Promote Male Fertility and Provide a Paternal Memory of Germline Gene Expression in C. elegans

Student Author(s)

Colin C. Conine

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

UMMS Affiliation

RNA Therapeutics Institute and Program in Molecular Medicine

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Bioinformatics | Biology | Cell Biology | Developmental Biology | Genetics | Genomics | Molecular Genetics


During each life cycle, germ cells preserve and pass on both genetic and epigenetic information. In C. elegans, the ALG-3/4 Argonaute proteins are expressed during male gametogenesis and promote male fertility. Here, we show that the CSR-1 Argonaute functions with ALG-3/4 to positively regulate target genes required for spermiogenesis. Our findings suggest that ALG-3/4 functions during spermatogenesis to amplify a small RNA signal that represents an epigenetic memory of male-specific gene expression. CSR-1, which is abundant in mature sperm, appears to transmit this memory to offspring. Surprisingly, in addition to small RNAs targeting male-specific genes, we show that males also harbor an extensive repertoire of CSR-1 small RNAs targeting oogenesis-specific mRNAs. Together, these findings suggest that C. elegans sperm transmit not only the genome but also epigenetic binary signals in the form of Argonaute/small RNA complexes that constitute a memory of gene expression in preceding generations.


Epigenetics, RNAi, Small RNA, Argonaute, Germline Sperm

DOI of Published Version



Conine, C.C., Moresco, J.J., Gu, W., Shirayama, M., Conte, D., Jr., Yates, J.R., 3rd, and Mello, C.C. (2013). Argonautes Promote Male Fertility and Provide a Paternal Memory of Germline Gene Expression in C. elegans. Cell 155(7):1532-1544. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.11.032. Link to article on publisher's website

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