The emergence of piRNAs against transposon invasion to preserve mammalian genome integrity

Nat Commun. 2017 Nov 10;8(1):1411. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01049-7.


Transposable elements (TEs) contribute to the large amount of repetitive sequences in mammalian genomes and have been linked to species-specific genome innovations by rewiring regulatory circuitries. However, organisms need to restrict TE activity to ensure genome integrity, especially in germline cells to protect the transmission of genetic information to the next generation. This review features our current understandings of mammalian PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) and their role in TE regulation in spermatogenesis. Here we discuss functional implication and explore additional molecular mechanisms that inhibit transposon activity and altogether illustrate the paradoxical arms race between genome evolution and stability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Silencing
  • Genomic Instability
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics*
  • Spermatogenesis / physiology
  • Spermatogonia / cytology
  • Spermatogonia / metabolism


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • RNA, Small Interfering