Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology
RNA Therapeutics Institute; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology
PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are single-stranded, 23–36 nucleotide (nt) RNAs that act as guides for an animal-specific class of Argonaute proteins, the PIWI proteins. The first piRNAs — derived from the Suppressor of Stellate locus in Drosophila melanogaster testes — were discovered in 2001. Although the authors noted the larger size of those ‘rasiRNAs’ (repeat-associated siRNAs), piRNAs were not recognized until 2006 as a distinct class of small silencing RNAs that derive from single-stranded, rather than double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), precursors. It was their association with PIWI, but not AGO, proteins and their independence from Dicer — the RNase III enzyme that cleaves dsRNAs to release small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) — that finally distinguished piRNAs from siRNAs. Moreover, while siRNAs are expressed ubiquitously, piRNAs are predominantly found in animal gonads and are thought to be indispensable for fertility.
DOI of Published Version
Curr Biol. 2014 Aug 18;24(16):R730-3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.037.Link to article on publisher's site
Current biology : CB
Han BW, Zamore PD. (2014). piRNAs. GSBS Student Publications. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.037. Retrieved from https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/gsbs_sp/2031