In the silkworm, Bombyx mori, the W chromosome plays a dominant role in female determination. However, neither protein-coding genes nor transcripts have so far been isolated from the W chromosome. Instead, a large amount of functional transposable elements and their remnants are accumulated on the W chromosome. PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are 23-30-nt-long small RNAs that potentially act as sequence-specific guides for PIWI proteins to silence transposon activity in animal gonads. In this study, by comparing ovary- and testis-derived piRNAs, we identified numerous female-enriched piRNAs. Our data indicated that female-enriched piRNAs are derived from theWchromosome. Moreover, comparative analyses on piRNA profiles from a series of W chromosome mutant strains revealed a striking enrichment of a specific set of transposon-derived piRNAs in the putative sex-determining region. Collectively, we revealed the nature of the silkworm W chromosome as a source of piRNAs. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
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