Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are small RNAs abundant in the germline that have been implicated in germline development and maintenance of genomic integrity across several animal species including human, mouse, rat, zebrafish and drosophila. Tens of thousands of piRNAs have been discovered, yet abundant piRNAs have still not been detected in various eukaryotic organisms. This is a report on the characterization, cloning and expression profiling of piRNA-like chicken RNAs. Here, we identified 19 piRNAs, each 23–39 nucleotides long, from chicken testis using a small RNA cDNA library and T-A cloning methods. Three different pilRNAs were selected according to size, homology and secondary structure for temporal and spatial expression by Q-PCR technology in different tissues at five growth and four development stages of Chinese indigenous Rugao chickens (RG) and introduced recessive white feather chickens (RW). We found that, consistent to other organisms, pilRNA-encoding sequences within the chicken genome were asymmetrically distributed on the chromosomes while displaying a preference for intergenic regions across the genome. Interestingly, unlike miRNAs with unique stem-loop structures (mature miRNAs form stem section and the rest form loop section), distinct secondary structures of pilRNAs were predicted. In addition, chicken pilRNAs were not only abundant in the germline but also existed in somatic tissues, where, expression levels were influenced mainly by different pilRNAs, breed and gender. Taken together, our results suggest that two distinct secondary structures exist between pilRNAs and miRNAs, which may clarify the splicing and processing mechanisms of the two small RNAs are possible different. Moreover, our results suggest that pilRNAs may not only be confined to development and maintenance of the germline but may also play important roles in somatic tissues. Additionally, different pilRNAs may be involved in the unique regulatory machinery of complex biological processes.
pilRNAs Chicken Testis Cloning Expression
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This study was funded by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31172199) and Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province of China (No. BK2009190).
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