Received January 21, 2013
Over the past decade, PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) have emerged as the most intriguing class of small RNAs. Almost every aspect of piRNA biology defies established rules of the RNA interference world while the scope of piRNA functional potential spans from transcriptional gene silencing to genome defense to transgenerational epigenetic phenomena. This review will focus on the genomic origins, biogenesis, and function of piRNAs in the mouse testis – an exceptionally robust experimental system amenable to genetic, cell-biological, molecular, and biochemical studies. Aided and frequently guided by knowledge obtained in insect, worm, and fish germ cells, mouse spermatogenesis has emerged as the primary model in understanding the role of this conserved pathway in mammals.
KEY WORDS: piRNA, PIWI, retrotransposon, germ cell, spermatogenesis, mouse, DNA methylation