piRNAs are regulators of metabolic reprogramming in stem cells

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Stem cells preferentially use glycolysis instead of oxidative phosphorylation and this metabolic rewiring plays an instructive role in their fate; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain largely unexplored. PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) and PIWI proteins have essential functions in a range of adult stem cells across species. Here, we show that piRNAs and the PIWI protein Aubergine (Aub) are instrumental in activating glycolysis in Drosophila germline stem cells (GSCs). High glycolysis is required for GSC self-renewal and aub loss-of-function induces a metabolic switch in GSCs leading to their differentiation. Aub directly binds glycolytic mRNAs and Enolase mRNA regulation by Aub depends on its 5’UTR. Furthermore, deletion of a piRNA target site in Enolase 5’UTR leads to GSC loss. These data reveal an Aub/piRNA function in translational activation of glycolytic mRNAs in GSCs, and pinpoint a new mode of regulation of metabolic reprogramming in stem cells based on small RNAs.

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