The exon junction complex (EJC) is a highly conserved ribonucleoprotein complex that binds RNAs during splicing and remains associated with them following export to the cytoplasm. While the role of this complex in mRNA localization, translation, and degradation has been well characterized, its mechanism of action in splicing a subset of Drosophila and human transcripts remains to be elucidated. Here, we describe a novel function for the EJC and its splicing subunit, RnpS1, in preventing transposon accumulation in both Drosophila germline and surrounding somatic follicle cells. This function is mediated specifically through the control of piwi transcript splicing, where, in the absence of RnpS1, the fourth intron of piwi is retained. This intron contains a weak polypyrimidine tract that is sufficient to confer dependence on RnpS1. Finally, we demonstrate that RnpS1-dependent removal of this intron requires splicing of the flanking introns, suggesting a model in which the EJC facilitates the splicing of weak introns following its initial deposition at adjacent exon junctions. These data demonstrate a novel role for the EJC in regulating piwi intron excision and provide a mechanism for its function during splicing.
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