Dicer independent small RNAs associate with telomeric heterochromatin
Small RNAs play important roles in the establishment and maintenance of heterochromatin structures. We show the presence of telomere specific small RNAs (tel-sRNAs) in mouse embryonic stem cells that are ~24 nucleotides in length, Dicer-independent, and 2'-O-methylated at the 3' terminus. The tel-sRNAs are asymmetric with specificity toward telomere G-rich strand, and evolutionarily conserved from protozoan to mammalian cells. Furthermore, tel-sRNAs are up-regulated in cells that carry null mutation of H3K4 methyltransferase MLL (Mll(–/–)) and down-regulated in cells that carry null mutations of histone H3K9 methyltransferase SUV39H (Suv39h1/h2(–/–)), suggesting that they are subject to epigenetic regulation. These results support that tel-sRNAs are heterochromatin associated pi-like small RNAs.