Tandemly-repeated DNAs, or satellites, are enriched in heterochromatic regions of eukaryotic genomes and contribute to nuclear structure and function. Some satellites are transcribed, but we lack direct evidence that specific satellite RNAs are required for normal organismal functions. Here, we show satellite RNAs derived from AAGAG tandem repeats are transcribed in many cells throughout Drosophila melanogaster development, enriched in neurons and testes, often localized within heterochromatic regions, and important for viability. Strikingly, we find AAGAG transcripts are necessary for male fertility, and that AAGAG RNA depletion results in defective histone-protamine exchange, sperm maturation and chromatin organization. Since these events happen late in spermatogenesis when the transcripts are not detected, we speculate that AAGAG RNA in primary spermatocytes 'primes' post-meiosis steps for sperm maturation. In addition to demonstrating essential functions for AAGAG RNAs, comparisons between closely related Drosophila species suggest that satellites and their transcription evolve quickly to generate new functions.
- Gary H Karpen
- Wilbur Kyle Mills
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Howard Y Chang, Stanford University, United States
© 2019, Mills et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
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