yama, a mutant allele of Mov10l1, disrupts retrotransposon silencing and piRNA biogenesis

PLoS Genet. 2021 Feb 26;17(2):e1009265. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009265. eCollection 2021 Feb.


Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) play critical roles in protecting germline genome integrity and promoting normal spermiogenic differentiation. In mammals, there are two populations of piRNAs: pre-pachytene and pachytene. Transposon-rich pre-pachytene piRNAs are expressed in fetal and perinatal germ cells and are required for retrotransposon silencing, whereas transposon-poor pachytene piRNAs are expressed in spermatocytes and round spermatids and regulate mRNA transcript levels. MOV10L1, a germ cell-specific RNA helicase, is essential for the production of both populations of piRNAs. Although the requirement of the RNA helicase domain located in the MOV10L1 C-terminal region for piRNA biogenesis is well known, its large N-terminal region remains mysterious. Here we report a novel Mov10l1 mutation, named yama, in the Mov10l1 N-terminal region. The yama mutation results in a single amino acid substitution V229E. The yama mutation causes meiotic arrest, de-repression of transposable elements, and male sterility because of defects in pre-pachytene piRNA biogenesis. Moreover, restricting the Mov10l1 mutation effects to later stages in germ cell development by combining with a postnatal conditional deletion of a complementing wild-type allele causes absence of pachytene piRNAs, accumulation of piRNA precursors, polar conglomeration of piRNA pathway proteins in spermatocytes, and spermiogenic arrest. Mechanistically, the V229E substitution in MOV10L1 reduces its interaction with PLD6, an endonuclease that generates the 5' ends of piRNA intermediates. Our results uncover an important role for the MOV10L1-PLD6 interaction in piRNA biogenesis throughout male germ cell development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Gene Silencing
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Germ Cells / pathology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Male
  • Meiosis / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Pachytene Stage / genetics
  • Phospholipase D / genetics
  • Phospholipase D / metabolism*
  • RNA Helicases / genetics
  • RNA Helicases / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Retroelements / genetics*
  • Spermatids / metabolism
  • Spermatocytes / metabolism
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics*
  • Testis / metabolism


  • ECAT11 protein, mouse
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Retroelements
  • Phospholipase D
  • mitoPLD protein, mouse
  • Mov10l1 protein, mouse
  • RNA Helicases