Host-defense mechanisms against transposable elements are critical to protect the genome information. Here we show that tudor-domain containing 9 (Tdrd9) is essential for silencing Line-1 retrotransposon in the mouse male germline. Tdrd9 encodes an ATPase/DExH-type helicase, and its mutation causes male sterility showing meiotic failure. In Tdrd9 mutants, Line-1 was highly activated and piwi-interacting small RNAs (piRNAs) corresponding to Line-1 were increased, suggesting that feedforward amplification operates in the mutant. In fetal testes, Tdrd9 mutation causes Line-1 desilencing and an aberrant piRNA profile in prospermatogonia, followed by cognate DNA demethylation. TDRD9 complexes with MIWI2 with distinct compartmentalization in processing bodies, and this TDRD9-MIWI2 localization is regulated by MILI and TDRD1 residing at intermitochondrial cement. Our results identify TDRD9 as a functional partner of MIWI2 and indicate that the tudor-piwi association is a conserved feature, while two separate axes, TDRD9-MIWI2 and TDRD1-MILI, cooperate nonredundantly in the piwi-small RNA pathway in the mouse male germline.
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