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Advances in understanding disease pathogenesis correlates to modifications in gene expression within different tissues and organ systems. In depth knowledge about the dysregulation of gene expression profiles is fundamental to fully uncover mechanisms in disease development and changes in host homeostasis. The body of knowledge surrounding mammalian regulatory elements, specifically regulators of chromatin structure, transcriptional and translational activation, has considerably surged within the past decade. A set of key regulators whose function still needs to be fully elucidated are small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs). Due to their broad range of unfolding functions in the regulation of gene expression during transcription and translation, sncRNAs are becoming vital to many cellular processes. Within the past decade, a novel class of sncRNAs called PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) have been implicated in various diseases, and understanding their complete function is of vital importance. Historically, piRNAs have been shown to be indispensable in germline integrity and stem cell development. Accumulating research evidence continue to reveal the many arms of piRNA function. Although piRNA function and biogenesis has been extensively studied in Drosophila, it is thought that they play similar roles in vertebrate species, including humans. Compounding evidence suggests that piRNAs encompass a wider functional range than small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs), which have been studied more in terms of cellular homeostasis and disease. This review aims to summarize contemporary knowledge regarding biogenesis, and homeostatic function of piRNAs and their emerging roles in the development of pathologies related to cardiomyopathies, cancer, and infectious diseases.


This work was originally published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, available at

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( 4.0/).



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