Daphnia magna egg piRNA cluster expression profiles change as mothers age

Jack Hearn*, Tom J Little

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: PiRNAs prevent transposable elements wreaking havoc on the germline genome. Changes in piRNA expression over the lifetime of an individual may impact on ageing through continued suppression, or release, of transposable element expression. We identified piRNA producing clusters in the genome of Daphnia magna by a combination of bioinformatic methods, and then contrasted their expression between parthenogenetically produced eggs representing maternally-deposited germline piRNAs of young (having their 1st clutch) and old (having their 5th clutch) mothers. Results from eggs were compared to cluster expression in three generations of adults.

RESULTS: As for other arthropods, D. magna encodes long uni-directionally transcribed non-coding RNAs consisting of fragmented transposable elements which account for most piRNAs expressed. Egg tissues showed extensive differences between clutches from young mothers and those from old mothers, with 578 and 686 piRNA clusters upregulated, respectively. Most log fold-change differences for significant clusters were modest, however. When considering only highly expressed clusters, there was a bias towards 1st clutch eggs at 41 upregulated versus eight clusters in the eggs from older mothers. F0 generation differences between young and old mothers were fewer than eggs, as 179 clusters were up-regulated in young versus 170 old mothers. This dropped to 31 versus 22 piRNA clusters when comparing adults in the F1 generation, and no differences were detected in the F3 generation. Inter-generational losses of differential piRNA cluster were similar to that observed for D. magna micro-RNA expression.

CONCLUSIONS: Little overlap in differentially expressed clusters was found between adults containing mixed somatic and germline (ovary) tissues and germ-line representing eggs. A cluster encompassing a Tudor domain containing gene important in the piRNA pathway was upregulated in the eggs from old mothers. We hypothesise that regulation of this gene could form part of a feedback loop that reduces piRNA pathway activity explaining the reduced number of highly-expressed clusters in eggs from old mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number429
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jun 2022
Publication statusFirst published - 8 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s).


  • Animals
  • DNA Transposable Elements/genetics
  • Daphnia/genetics
  • Female
  • Germ Cells/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • RNA, Small Interfering/genetics
  • Life-history
  • Arthropod small RNAs
  • Epigenomics
  • Ageing
  • Small RNA
  • piRNA
  • Daphnia
  • Differential expression
  • Bioinformatics


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