Reprogramming the piRNA pathway for multiplexed and transgenerational gene silencing in C. elegans

Monika Priyadarshini, Julie Zhouli Ni, Amhed M. Vargas-Velazquez, Sam Guoping Gu, Christian Frøkjær-Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Single-guide RNAs can target exogenous CRISPR-Cas proteins to unique DNA locations, enabling genetic tools that are efficient, specific and scalable. Here we show that short synthetic guide Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) (21-nucleotide sg-piRNAs) expressed from extrachromosomal transgenes can, analogously, reprogram the endogenous piRNA pathway for gene-specific silencing in the hermaphrodite germline, sperm and embryos of Caenorhabditis elegans. piRNA-mediated interference ('piRNAi') is more efficient than RNAi and can be multiplexed, and auxin-mediated degradation of the piRNA-specific Argonaute PRG-1 allows conditional gene silencing. Target-specific silencing results in decreased messenger RNA levels, amplification of secondary small interfering RNAs and repressive chromatin modifications. Short (300 base pairs) piRNAi transgenes amplified from arrayed oligonucleotide pools also induce silencing, potentially making piRNAi highly scalable. We show that piRNAi can induce transgenerational epigenetic silencing of two endogenous genes (him-5 and him-8). Silencing is inherited for four to six generations after target-specific sg-piRNAs are lost, whereas depleting PRG-1 leads to essentially permanent epigenetic silencing.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Methods
StatePublished - Feb 3 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biotechnology


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