Kaaij, L.J., Hoogstrate, S.W., Berezikov, E., and Ketting, R.F. (2013) piRNA dynamics in divergent zebrafish strains reveals long-lasting maternal influence on zygotic piRNA profiles. RNA (New York, N.Y.). 19(3):345-356.
Transposable elements (TEs) are mobile genetic elements that can have many deleterious effects on the fitness of their host.
The germline-specific PIWI pathway guards the genome against TEs, deriving its specificity from sequence complementarity between
PIWI-bound small RNAs (piRNAs) and the TEs. The piRNAs are derived from so-called piRNA clusters. Recent studies have demonstrated
that the piRNA repertoire can be adjusted to accommodate recent TE invasions by capturing invading TEs in piRNA loci. Thus
far, no information concerning piRNA divergence is available from vertebrates. We present piRNA analyses of two relatively
divergent zebrafish strains. We find that significant differences in the piRNA populations have accumulated, most notably
among active class I TEs. This divergence can be split into differences in piRNA abundance per element and differences in
sense/antisense polarity ratios. In crosses between animals of the different strains, many of these differences are resolved
in the progeny. However, some differences remain, often leaning to the maternally contributed piRNA population. These differences
can be detected at least two generations later. Our data illustrate, for the first time, the fluidity of piRNA populations
in vertebrates and how the established diversity is transmitted to future generations.
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