Open Access Open Badges Research article

The influences of PRG-1 on the expression of small RNAs and mRNAs

Jia-Jia Wang12, Dong-Ya Cui124, Tengfei Xiao3, Xubin Sun12, Peng Zhang2, Runsheng Chen3*, Shunmin He2* and Da-Wei Huang12*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Life Science, Hebei University, Hebei 071002, People’s Republic of China

2 Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, People’s Republic of China

3 Laboratory of Bioinformatics and Noncoding RNA, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, People’s Republic of China

4 College of Life Science, Yuncheng University, Yuncheng, Shanxi 044000, People’s Republic of China

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:321  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-321

Published: 30 April 2014



In metazoans, Piwi-related Argonaute proteins play important roles in maintaining germline integrity and fertility and have been linked to a class of germline-enriched small RNAs termed piRNAs. Caenorhabditis elegans encodes two Piwi family proteins called PRG-1 and PRG-2, and PRG-1 interacts with the C. elegans piRNAs (21U-RNAs). Previous studies found that mutation of prg-1 causes a marked reduction in the expression of 21U-RNAs, temperature-sensitive defects in fertility and other phenotypic defects.


In this study, we wanted to systematically demonstrate the function of PRG-1 in the regulation of small RNAs and their targets. By analyzing small RNAs and mRNAs with and without a mutation in prg-1 during C. elegans development, we demonstrated that (1) mutation of prg-1 leads to a decrease in the expression of 21U-RNAs, and causes 35 ~ 40% of miRNAs to be down-regulated; (2) in C. elegans, approximately 3% (6% in L4) of protein-coding genes are differentially expressed after mutating prg-1, and 60 ~ 70% of these substantially altered protein-coding genes are up-regulated; (3) the target genes of the down-regulated miRNAs and the candidate target genes of the down-regulated 21U-RNAs are enriched in the up-regulated protein-coding genes; and (4) PRG-1 regulates protein-coding genes by down-regulating small RNAs (miRNAs and 21U-RNAs) that target genes that participate in the development of C. elegans.


In prg-1-mutated C. elegans, the expression of miRNAs and 21U-RNAs was reduced, and the protein-coding targets, which were associated with the development of C. elegans, were up-regulated. This may be the mechanism underlying PRG-1 function.

C. elegans; miRNAs; 21U-RNAs