PerspectiveRNA

Phased piRNAs tackle transposons

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Science  15 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6236, pp. 756-757
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3004

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Summary

Transposable elements are dominant inhabitants of the eukaryotic genome. Their ability to mobilize and insert anywhere in the genome can cause mutations that are generally detrimental to the host. This makes them key targets for silencing. Small RNAs called PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are one means to attack transposons. They constitute the largest class of small RNAs, but the mechanisms by which they are generated are not completely clear. On pages 812 and 817 of this issue, Mohn et al. (1) and Han et al. (2), respectively, propose a revised model for piRNA biogenesis that increases the diversity of piRNA sequences and thereby expands the range of targets they can silence.