The Piwi-piRNA pathway: road to immortality

Ádám Sturm, András Perczel, Zoltán Ivics, Tibor Vellai

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

9 Citations (Scopus)


Despite its medical, social, and economic significance, understanding what primarily causes aging, that is, the mechanisms of the aging process, remains a fundamental and fascinating problem in biology. Accumulating evidence indicates that a small RNA-based gene regulatory machinery, the Piwi-piRNA pathway, represents a shared feature of nonaging (potentially immortal) biological systems, including the germline, somatic cancer stem cells, and certain ‘lower’ eukaryotic organisms like the planarian flatworm and freshwater hydra. The pathway primarily functions to repress the activity of mobile genetic elements, also called transposable elements (TEs) or ‘jumping genes’, which are capable of moving from one genomic locus to another, thereby causing insertional mutations. TEs become increasingly active and multiply in the genomes of somatic cells as the organism ages. These characteristics of TEs highlight their decisive mutagenic role in the progressive disintegration of genetic information, a molecular hallmark associated with aging. Hence, TE-mediated genomic instability may substantially contribute to the aging process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)906-911
Number of pages6
JournalAging cell
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017



  • CRISPR-Cas
  • cancer
  • genomic instability
  • mechanisms of aging
  • mortality rate
  • nonaging cells
  • the Piwi-piRNA pathway
  • transposable element

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cell Biology

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