Julius Brennecke

Picture of the Group Leader Julius Brennecke

The piRNA Pathway in the Drosophila Germline - an RNA based Genome Immune System

  • Small RNA pathways – referred to as RNA interference (RNAi) pathways – govern a diverse array of cellular processes. Among those are control of gene expression, suppression of viral replication, formation of heterochromatin and protection of the genome against selfish genetic elements such as transposons.
    Our group focuses on the piRNA pathway, an evolutionarily conserved RNAi pathway acting in the animal germline. It is the key genome surveillance system that suppresses the activity of transposons. Recent work has provided a conceptual framework for this pathway: According to this, the genome stores transposon sequences in defined heterochromatic loci called piRNA clusters. These provide the RNA substrates for the biogenesis of piRNAs. An intricate amplification cycle steers piRNA production predominantly to those cluster regions that are complementary to transposons being active at a given time.
    Finally, piRNAs guide a protein complex centered on Piwi-proteins to complementary transposon RNAs in the cell, leading to their silencing.   We systematically dissect the piRNA pathway regarding its molecular architecture as well as its biological functions in Drosophila. For our studies we combine fly genetics, proteomics and genomics approaches.

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    Julius Brennecke
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Selected Publications

Mohn, F., Handler, D., Brennecke, J. (2015). Noncoding RNA. piRNA-guided slicing specifies transcripts for Zucchini-dependent, phased piRNA biogenesis. Science. 348(6236):812-7 (abstract)
Mohn, F., Sienski, G., Handler, D., Brennecke, J. (2014). The rhino-deadlock-cutoff complex licenses noncanonical transcription of dual-strand piRNA clusters in Drosophila. Cell. 157(6):1364-79 (abstract)
Handler, D., Meixner, K., Pizka, M., Lauss, K., Schmied, C., Gruber, FS., Brennecke, J. (2013). The genetic makeup of the Drosophila piRNA pathway. Mol Cell. 50(5):762-77 (abstract)
Sienski, G., Dönertas, D., Brennecke, J. (2012). Transcriptional silencing of transposons by Piwi and maelstrom and its impact on chromatin state and gene expression. Cell. 151(5):964-80 (abstract)
Brennecke, J., Malone, CD., Aravin, AA., Sachidanandam, R., Stark, A., Hannon, GJ. (2008). An epigenetic role for maternally inherited piRNAs in transposon silencing. Science. 322(5906):1387-92 (abstract)
Brennecke, J., Aravin, AA., Stark, A., Dus, M., Kellis, M., Sachidanandam, R., Hannon, GJ. (2007). Discrete small RNA-generating loci as master regulators of transposon activity in Drosophila. Cell. 128(6):1089-103 (abstract)


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