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Diverse Defenses: A Perspective Comparing Dipteran Piwi-piRNA Pathways.

  • Author(s): Gamez, Stephanie
  • Srivastav, Satyam
  • Akbari, Omar S
  • Lau, Nelson C
  • et al.
Abstract

Animals face the dual threat of virus infections hijacking cellular function and transposons proliferating in germline genomes. For insects, the deeply conserved RNA interference (RNAi) pathways and other chromatin regulators provide an important line of defense against both viruses and transposons. For example, this innate immune system displays adaptiveness to new invasions by generating cognate small RNAs for targeting gene silencing measures against the viral and genomic intruders. However, within the Dipteran clade of insects, Drosophilid fruit flies and Culicids mosquitoes have evolved several unique mechanistic aspects of their RNAi defenses to combat invading transposons and viruses, with the Piwi-piRNA arm of the RNAi pathways showing the greatest degree of novel evolution. Whereas central features of Piwi-piRNA pathways are conserved between Drosophilids and Culicids, multiple lineage-specific innovations have arisen that may reflect distinct genome composition differences and specific ecological and physiological features dividing these two branches of Dipterans. This perspective review focuses on the most recent findings illuminating the Piwi/piRNA pathway distinctions between fruit flies and mosquitoes, and raises open questions that need to be addressed in order to ameliorate human diseases caused by pathogenic viruses that mosquitoes transmit as vectors.

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