A transgenerational process defines piRNA biogenesis in Drosophila virilis

Cell Rep. 2014 Sep 25;8(6):1617-1623. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.08.013. Epub 2014 Sep 4.


Piwi-interacting (pi)RNAs repress diverse transposable elements in germ cells of Metazoa and are essential for fertility in both invertebrates and vertebrates. The precursors of piRNAs are transcribed from distinct genomic regions, the so-called piRNA clusters; however, how piRNA clusters are differentiated from the rest of the genome is not known. To address this question, we studied piRNA biogenesis in two D. virilis strains that show differential ability to generate piRNAs from several genomic regions. We found that active piRNA biogenesis correlates with high levels of histone 3 lysine 9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) over genomic regions that give rise to piRNAs. Furthermore, piRNA biogenesis in the progeny requires the transgenerational inheritance of an epigenetic signal, presumably in the form of homologous piRNAs that are generated in the maternal germline and deposited into the oocyte. The inherited piRNAs enhance piRNA biogenesis through the installment of H3K9me3 on piRNA clusters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Genome
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Multigene Family
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Histones
  • RNA, Small Interfering

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE59965