The non-redundant functions of PIWI family proteins in gametogenesis in golden hamsters

Nat Commun. 2023 Aug 29;14(1):5267. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-40650-x.


The piRNA pathway is essential for female fertility in golden hamsters and likely humans, but not in mice. However, the role of individual PIWIs in mammalian reproduction remains poorly understood outside of mice. Here, we describe the expression profiles, subcellular localization, and knockout-associated reproductive defects for all four PIWIs in golden hamsters. In female golden hamsters, PIWIL1 and PIWIL3 are highly expressed throughout oogenesis and early embryogenesis, while knockout of PIWIL1 leads to sterility, and PIWIL3 deficiency results in subfertility with lagging zygotic development. PIWIL1 can partially compensate for TE silencing in PIWIL3 knockout females, but not vice versa. PIWIL1 and PIWIL4 are the predominant PIWIs expressed in adult and postnatal testes, respectively, while PIWIL2 is present at both stages. Loss of any PIWI expressed in testes leads to sterility and severe but distinct spermatogenesis disorders. These findings illustrate the non-redundant regulatory functions of PIWI-piRNAs in gametogenesis and early embryogenesis in golden hamsters, facilitating study of their role in human fertility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Argonaute Proteins / genetics
  • Craniocerebral Trauma*
  • Cricetinae
  • Female
  • Gametogenesis
  • Humans
  • Infertility*
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Mice
  • Oogenesis / genetics
  • Piwi-Interacting RNA
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics


  • Piwi-Interacting RNA
  • PIWIL1 protein, human
  • Argonaute Proteins
  • PIWIL2 protein, human
  • PIWIL4 protein, mouse