Drosophila Piwi associates with PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) and represses transposons transcriptionally through heterochromatinization; however, this process is poorly understood. Here, we identify Brahma (Brm), the core adenosine triphosphatase of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex, as a new Piwi interactor, and show Brm involvement in activating transcription of Piwi-targeted transposons before silencing. Bioinformatic analyses indicated that Piwi, once bound to target RNAs, reduced the occupancies of SWI/SNF and RNA polymerase II (Pol II) on target loci, abrogating transcription. Artificial piRNA-driven targeting of Piwi to RNA transcripts enhanced repression of Brm-dependent reporters compared with Brm-independent reporters. This was dependent on Piwi cofactors, Gtsf1/Asterix (Gtsf1), Panoramix/Silencio (Panx), and Maelstrom (Mael), but not Eggless/dSetdb (Egg)–mediated H3K9me3 deposition. The λN-box B–mediated tethering of Mael to reporters repressed Brm-dependent genes in the absence of Piwi, Panx, and Gtsf1. We propose that Piwi, via Mael, can rapidly suppress transcription of Brm-dependent genes to facilitate heterochromatin formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas