Ciliates are an interesting model system for investigating diverse functions of noncoding RNAs, especially in genome defence pathways. During sexual development, the ciliate somatic genome undergoes massive rearrangement and reduction through removal of transposable elements and other repetitive DNA. This is guided by a multitude of noncoding RNAs of different sizes and functions, the extent of which is only recently becoming clear. The genome rearrangement pathways evolved as a defence against parasitic DNA, but interestingly also use the transposable elements and transposases to execute their own removal. Thus, ciliates are also a good model for the coevolution of host and transposable element, and the mutual dependence between the two. In this review, we summarise the genome rearrangement pathways in three diverse species of ciliate, with focus on recent discoveries and the roles of noncoding RNAs.
Keywords: ciliates; genome rearrangement; noncoding RNA; transposon defence.
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