Increasing Cell Density Globally Enhances the Biogenesis of Piwi-interacting RNAs in Bombyx Mori Germ Cells

Sci Rep. 2017 Jun 23;7(1):4110. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-04429-7.


Piwi proteins and their bound Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are predominantly expressed in the germline and play crucial roles in germline development by silencing transposons and other targets. Bombyx mori BmN4 cells are culturable germ cells that equip the piRNA pathway. Because of the scarcity of piRNA-expressing culturable cells, BmN4 cells are being utilized for the analyses of piRNA biogenesis. We here report that the piRNA biogenesis in BmN4 cells is regulated by cell density. As cell density increased, the abundance of Piwi proteins and piRNA biogenesis factors was commonly upregulated, resulting in an increased number of perinuclear nuage-like granules where Piwi proteins localize. Along with these phenomena, the abundance of mature piRNAs also globally increased, whereas levels of long piRNA precursor and transposons decreased, suggesting that increasing cell density promotes piRNA biogenesis pathway and that the resultant accumulation of mature piRNAs is functionally significant for transposon silencing. Our study reveals a previously uncharacterized link between cell density and piRNA biogenesis, designates cell density as a critical variable in piRNA studies using BmN4 cell system, and suggests the alteration of cell density as a useful tool to monitor piRNA biogenesis and function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bombyx / genetics*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Computational Biology
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Insect Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering