Amniotes co-opt intrinsic genetic instability to protect germ-line genome integrity

Yu H. Sun, Hongxiao Cui, Chi Song, Jiafei Teng Shen, Xiaoyu Zhuo, Ruoqiao Huiyi Wang, Xiaohui Yu, Rudo Ndamba, Qian Mu, Hanwen Gu, Duolin Wang, Gayathri Guru Murthy, Pidong Li, Fan Liang, Lei Liu, Qing Tao, Ying Wang, Sara Orlowski, Qi Xu, Huaijun ZhouJarra Jagne, Omer Gokcumen, Nick Anthony, Xin Zhao, Xin Zhiguo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Unlike PIWI-interacting RNA (piRNA) in other species that mostly target transposable elements (TEs), >80% of piRNAs in adult mammalian testes lack obvious targets. However, mammalian piRNA sequences and piRNA-producing loci evolve more rapidly than the rest of the genome for unknown reasons. Here, through comparative studies of chickens, ducks, mice, and humans, as well as long-read nanopore sequencing on diverse chicken breeds, we find that piRNA loci across amniotes experience: (1) a high local mutation rate of structural variations (SVs, mutations ≥ 50 bp in size); (2) positive selection to suppress young and actively mobilizing TEs commencing at the pachytene stage of meiosis during germ cell development; and (3) negative selection to purge deleterious SV hotspots. Our results indicate that genetic instability at pachytene piRNA loci, while producing certain pathogenic SVs, also protects genome integrity against TE mobilization by driving the formation of rapid-evolving piRNA sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number812
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Amniotes co-opt intrinsic genetic instability to protect germ-line genome integrity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this