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Received March 26, 2013
PIWI proteins interacting with specific type of small RNAs (piRNAs) repress transposable elements in animals. Besides, they have been shown to participate in various cellular processes: in the regulation of heterochromatin formation including telomere structures, in the control of translation and the cell cycle, and in DNA rearrangements. PIWI proteins were first identified by their roles in the self-renewal of germline stem cells. PIWI protein functions are not limited to gonadogenesis, but the role in determining the fate of stem cells is their specific feature conserved throughout the evolution of animals. Molecular mechanisms underlying these processes are far from being understood. This review focuses on the role of PIWI proteins in the control of maintenance and proliferation of germinal stem cells and its relation to the known function of PIWI in transposon repression.
KEY WORDS: small RNA, RNA silencing, piRNA, heterochromatin, stem cells, PIWI