Silencing tool quashes gene activity across generations

03 February, 2022

A gene-silencing tool could enable new opportunities for advancing basic biomedical research and drug development.

The technique draws on the power of small noncoding RNA molecules that normally suppress gene activity. Known as Piwi-interacting RNAs, or piRNAs, these regulatory molecules normally play a critical role in bringing genomic parasites to heel.

But geneticist Christian Frøkjær-Jensen and his colleagues at KAUST co-opted this piRNA pathway to deliberately quell the activity of target genes of interest1.

Working in nematode worms — a common laboratory model for genetics research — Frøkjær-Jensen’s team created synthetic 21-letter RNA sequences that interacted with the natural piRNA machinery to silence intended genes.

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Image: A team of KAUST researchers used nematode worms to explore how short-term genetic memories can be inherited across generations.
© 2022 KAUST; Ivan Gromicho