DEPS-1 is required for piRNA-dependent silencing and PIWI condensate organisation in Caenorhabditis elegans

Nat Commun. 2020 Aug 25;11(1):4242. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-18089-1.


Membraneless organelles are sites for RNA biology including small non-coding RNA (ncRNA) mediated gene silencing. How small ncRNAs utilise phase separated environments for their function is unclear. We investigated how the PIWI-interacting RNA (piRNA) pathway engages with the membraneless organelle P granule in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proteomic analysis of the PIWI protein PRG-1 reveals an interaction with the constitutive P granule protein DEPS-1. DEPS-1 is not required for piRNA biogenesis but piRNA-dependent silencing: deps-1 mutants fail to produce the secondary endo-siRNAs required for the silencing of piRNA targets. We identify a motif on DEPS-1 which mediates a direct interaction with PRG-1. DEPS-1 and PRG-1 form intertwining clusters to build elongated condensates in vivo which are dependent on the Piwi-interacting motif of DEPS-1. Additionally, we identify EDG-1 as an interactor of DEPS-1 and PRG-1. Our study reveals how specific protein-protein interactions drive the spatial organisation and piRNA-dependent silencing within membraneless organelles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Argonaute Proteins / genetics
  • Argonaute Proteins / metabolism*
  • Binding Sites
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / chemistry
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Protein Binding
  • Proteomics
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism*


  • Argonaute Proteins
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • DEPS-1 protein, C elegans
  • MUT-16 protein, C elegans
  • PRG-1 protein, C elegans
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • RNA, Small Interfering