The rhino-deadlock-cutoff complex licenses noncanonical transcription of dual-strand piRNA clusters in Drosophila

Cell. 2014 Jun 5;157(6):1364-1379. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.04.031.


Argonaute proteins of the PIWI clade are central to transposon silencing in animal gonads. Their target specificity is defined by 23-30 nt PIWI interacting RNAs (piRNAs), which mostly originate from discrete genomic loci termed piRNA clusters. Here, we show that a complex composed of Rhino, Deadlock, and Cutoff (RDC) defines dual-strand piRNA clusters genome-wide in Drosophila ovaries. The RDC is anchored to H3K9me3-marked chromatin in part via Rhino's chromodomain. Depletion of Piwi results in loss of the RDC and small RNAs at a subset of piRNA clusters, demonstrating a feedback loop between Piwi and piRNA source loci. Intriguingly, profiles of RNA polymerase II occupancy, nascent transcription, and steady-state RNA levels reveal that the RDC licenses noncanonical transcription of dual-strand piRNA clusters. Likely, this process involves 5' end protection of nascent RNAs and suppression of transcription termination. Our data provide key insight into the regulation and evolution of piRNA clusters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ovary / metabolism
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Transcription Termination, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • Cuff protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • del protein, Drosophila
  • rhi protein, Drosophila
  • RNA Polymerase II

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE55824