Julie Ahringer talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's Fast Moving Front in the field of Molecular
Biology & Genetics.
Article: Systematic functional analysis of the
Caenorhabditis elegans genome using RNAi
Authors: Kamath, RS;Fraser, AG;Dong, Y;Poulin, G;Durbin,
R;Gotta, M;Kanapin, A;Le Bot, N;Moreno, S;Sohrmann,
Journal: NATURE, 421 (6920): 231-237 JAN 16 2003
Univ Cambridge, Wellcome Trust Canc Res UK Inst, Tennis
Court Rd, Cambridge CB2 1QR, England.
Univ Cambridge, Wellcome Trust Canc Res UK Inst, Cambridge
CB2 1QR, England.
Univ Cambridge, Dept Genet, Cambridge CB2 1QR,
(addresses have been truncated)
Why do you think your paper is highly
We carried out the first systematic inactivation of most of the genes in
any animal's genome, by creating an RNA interference library for the
nematode C. elegans. Other laboratories around the world are using
the library we created to carry out screens for genes involved in different
biological processes. This has changed the C. elegans field.
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of
We developed methods for genome-wide RNAi and made discoveries on the
properties of genes and genome organization. For example, we found that
essential genes show clustering in the genome.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's
We know the DNA sequence of many organisms and that many genes in all
animals are similar. However, in most cases, we don't know the function of
the genes. This knowledge is necessary for understanding disease and how we
develop. We tested, one by one, the function of most genes in the roundworm
C. elegans using a new genetic technique called RNAi. Many
laboratories are now using the system we developed to study biological
processes shared across all animals. Other investigators have extended
these approaches to other animals, which is speeding up the rate of
biological discovery and understanding.
Where do you see your research leading in the future?
We are using genome-wide RNAi screening to study different biological
processes, such as cell polarity, transcription regulation, and genome
Dr. Julie Ahringer
The Gurdon Institute
University of Cambridge
Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans genome, C. elegans, RNAi, cell
polarity, transcription regulation, genome evolution.