Discovery and Characterization of piRNAs in the Human Fetal Ovary

Zev Williams, Pavel Morozov, Aleksandra Mihailovic, Carolina Lin, Pavan Kumar Puvvula, Stefan Juranek, Zev Rosenwaks, Thomas Tuschl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), a class of 26- to 32-nt non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), function in germline development, transposon silencing, and epigenetic regulation. We performed deep sequencing and annotation of untreated and periodate-treated small RNA cDNA libraries from human fetal and adult germline and reference somatic tissues. This revealed abundant piRNAs originating from 150 piRNA-encoding genes, including some exhibiting gender-specific expression, in fetal ovary and adult testis-developmental periods coinciding with mitotic cell divisions expanding fetal germ cells prior to meiotic divisions. The absence of reads mapping uniquely to annotated piRNA genes demonstrated their paucity in fetal testis and adult ovary and absence in somatic tissues. We curated human piRNA-expressing regions and defined their precise borders and observed piRNA-guided cleavage of transcripts antisense to some piRNA-producing genes. This study provides insights into sex-specific mammalian piRNA expression and function and serves as a reference for human piRNA analysis and annotation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)854-863
Number of pages10
JournalCell Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 27 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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