Membraneless organelles are platforms for many aspects of RNA biology including small non-coding RNA (ncRNA) mediated gene silencing. How small ncRNAs utilise phase separated environments for their function is unclear. To address this question, we investigated how the PIWI-interacting RNA (piRNA) pathway engages with the membraneless organelle P granule in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proteomic analysis of the PIWI protein PRG-1 revealed an interaction with the constitutive P granule protein DEPS-1. Furthermore we identified a novel motif on DEPS-1, PBS, which interacts directly with the Piwi domain of PRG-1. This protein complex forms intertwining ultrastructures to build elongated condensates in vivo. These sub-organelle ultrastructures depend on the Piwi-interacting motif of DEPS-1 and mediate piRNA function. Additionally, we identify a novel interactor of DEPS-1, EDG-1, which is required for DEPS-1 condensates to form correctly. We show that DEPS-1 is not required for piRNA biogenesis but piRNA function: deps-1 mutants fail to produce the secondary endo-siRNAs required for the silencing of piRNA targets. Our study reveals how specific protein-protein interactions drive the spatial organisation and function of small RNA pathways within membraneless organelles.
|Publication status||Published - 16 Mar 2019|