RNA interference (RNAi) has emerged as a powerful tool to generate loss-of-function phenotypes in a variety of organisms. Combined with the sequence information of almost completely annotated genomes, RNAi technologies have opened new avenues to conduct systematic genetic screens for every annotated gene in the genome. As increasing large datasets of RNAi-induced phenotypes become available, an important challenge remains the systematic integration and annotation of functional information. Genome-wide RNAi screens have been performed both in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila for a variety of phenotypes and several RNAi libraries have become available to assess phenotypes for almost every gene in the genome. These screens were performed using different types of assays from visible phenotypes to focused transcriptional readouts and provide a rich data source for functional annotation across different species. The GenomeRNAi database provides access to published RNAi phenotypes obtained from cell-based screens and maps them to their genomic locus, including possible non-specific regions. The database also gives access to sequence information of RNAi probes used in various screens. It can be searched by phenotype, by gene, by RNAi probe or by sequence and is accessible at
The completion of the genome sequencing for several organisms has
created a great demand for genomic tools that can systematically
analyze the growing wealth of data. In contrast to the classical
reverse genetics approach of creating specific knockout cell lines
or animals that is time-consuming and expensive, RNA-mediated
interference (RNAi) has emerged as a fast, simple, and
cost-effective technique for gene knockdown in large scale. Since
its discovery as a gene silencing response to double-stranded RNA
(dsRNA) with homology to endogenous genes in
Caenorhabditis elegans (C elegans),
RNAi technology has been adapted to various high-throughput
screens (HTS) for genome-wide loss-of-function (LOF) analysis.
Biochemical insights into the endogenous mechanism of
RNAi have led to advances in RNAi methodology including RNAi
molecule synthesis, delivery, and sequence design. In this
article, we will briefly review these various RNAi library designs
and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each library strategy.
Mutations in lin-35, the worm ortholog of a mammalian tumor suppressor gene, and other synMuv B genes result in an increased sensitivity to RNAi and enhanced somatic transgene silencing.
Genome-wide RNA interference (RNAi) screening is a very powerful tool for analyzing gene function in vivo in Caenorhabditis elegans. The effectiveness of RNAi varies from gene to gene, however, and neuronally expressed genes are largely refractive to RNAi in wild-type worms.
We found that C. elegans strains carrying mutations in lin-35, the worm ortholog of the tumor suppressor gene p105Rb, or a subset of the genetically related synMuv B family of chromatin-modifying genes, show increased strength and penetrance for many germline, embryonic, and post-embryonic RNAi phenotypes, including neuronal RNAi phenotypes. Mutations in these same genes also enhance somatic transgene silencing via an RNAi-dependent mechanism. Two genes, mes-4 and zfp-1, are required both for the vulval lineage defects resulting from mutations in synMuv B genes and for RNAi, suggesting a common mechanism for the function of synMuv B genes in vulval development and in regulating RNAi. Enhanced RNAi in the germline of lin-35 worms suggests that misexpression of germline genes in somatic cells cannot alone account for the enhanced RNAi observed in this strain.
A worm strain with a null mutation in lin-35 is more sensitive to RNAi than any other previously described single mutant strain, and so will prove very useful for future genome-wide RNAi screens, particularly for identifying genes with neuronal functions. As lin-35 is the worm ortholog of the mammalian tumor suppressor gene p105Rb, misregulation of RNAi may be important during human oncogenesis.
The phenomenon of RNAi, in which the introduction of dsRNA into a cell triggers the destruction of the corresponding mRNA resulting in a gene silencing effect, is conserved across a wide array of plant and animal phyla. However, the mechanism by which the dsRNA enters a cell, allowing the RNAi effect to occur throughout a multicellular organism (systemic RNAi), has only been studied extensively in certain plants and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In recent years, RNAi has become a popular reverse genetic technique for gene silencing in many organisms. Although many RNAi techniques in non-traditional model organisms rely on the systemic nature of RNAi, little has been done to analyze the parameters required to obtain a robust systemic RNAi response. The data provided here show that the concentration and length of dsRNA have profound effects on the efficacy of the RNAi response both in regard to initial efficiency and duration of the effect in Tribolium castaneum. In addition, our analyses using a series of short dsRNAs and chimeric dsRNA provide evidence that dsRNA cellular uptake (and not the RNAi response itself) is the major step affected by dsRNA size in Tribolium. We also demonstrate that competitive inhibition of dsRNA can occur when multiple dsRNAs are injected together, influencing the effectiveness of RNAi. These data provide specific information essential to the design and implementation of RNAi based studies, and may provide insight into the molecular basis of the systemic RNAi response in insects.
RNA interference (RNAi) is an efficient reverse genetics technique for investigating gene function in eukaryotes. The method has been widely used in model organisms, such as the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, where it has been deployed in genome-wide high throughput screens to identify genes involved in many cellular and developmental processes. However, RNAi techniques have not translated efficiently to animal parasitic nematodes that afflict humans, livestock and companion animals across the globe, creating a dependency on data tentatively inferred from C. elegans.
We report improved and effective in vitro RNAi procedures we have developed using heterogeneous short interfering RNA (hsiRNA) mixtures that when coupled with optimized immunostaining techniques yield detailed analysis of cytological defects in the human parasitic nematode, Brugia malayi. The cellular disorganization observed in B. malayi embryos following RNAi targeting the genes encoding γ-tubulin, and the polarity determinant protein, PAR-1, faithfully phenocopy the known defects associated with gene silencing of their C. elegans orthologs. Targeting the B. malayi cell junction protein, AJM-1 gave a similar but more severe phenotype than that observed in C. elegans. Cellular phenotypes induced by our in vitro RNAi procedure can be observed by immunofluorescence in as little as one week.
We observed cytological defects following RNAi targeting all seven B. malayi transcripts tested and the phenotypes mirror those documented for orthologous genes in the model organism C. elegans. This highlights the reliability, effectiveness and specificity of our RNAi and immunostaining procedures. We anticipate that these techniques will be widely applicable to other important animal parasitic nematodes, which have hitherto been mostly refractory to such genetic analysis.
RNAi; nematode; immunostaining; Brugia; filaria
Progress in aging research has identified genetic and environmental factors that regulate longevity across species. The nematode worm Caenorhabditis
elegans is a genetically tractable model system that has been widely used to investigate the molecular mechanisms of aging, and the development of RNA interference (RNAi) technology has provided a powerful tool for performing large-scale genetic screens in this organism. Genome-wide screens have identified hundreds of genes that influence lifespan, many of which fall into distinct functional classes and pathways. The purpose of this review is to summarize the results of large-scale RNAi longevity screens in C. elegans, and to provide an in-depth comparison and analysis of their methodology and most significant findings.
Dietary restriction; FOXO; Genomic; Longevity; IGF-1; Insulin; Mitochondria.
Tribolium resembles C. elegans in showing a robust systemic RNAi response, but does not have C. elegans-type RNAi mechanisms; insect systemic RNAi probably uses a different mechanism.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a highly conserved cellular mechanism. In some organisms, such as Caenorhabditis elegans, the RNAi response can be transmitted systemically. Some insects also exhibit a systemic RNAi response. However, Drosophila, the leading insect model organism, does not show a robust systemic RNAi response, necessitating another model system to study the molecular mechanism of systemic RNAi in insects.
We used Tribolium, which exhibits robust systemic RNAi, as an alternative model system. We have identified the core RNAi genes, as well as genes potentially involved in systemic RNAi, from the Tribolium genome. Both phylogenetic and functional analyses suggest that Tribolium has a somewhat larger inventory of core component genes than Drosophila, perhaps allowing a more sensitive response to double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). We also identified three Tribolium homologs of C. elegans sid-1, which encodes a possible dsRNA channel. However, detailed sequence analysis has revealed that these Tribolium homologs share more identity with another C. elegans gene, tag-130. We analyzed tag-130 mutants, and found that this gene does not have a function in systemic RNAi in C. elegans. Likewise, the Tribolium sid-like genes do not seem to be required for systemic RNAi. These results suggest that insect sid-1-like genes have a different function than dsRNA uptake. Moreover, Tribolium lacks homologs of several genes important for RNAi in C. elegans.
Although both Tribolium and C. elegans show a robust systemic RNAi response, our genome-wide survey reveals significant differences between the RNAi mechanisms of these organisms. Thus, insects may use an alternative mechanism for the systemic RNAi response. Understanding this process would assist with rendering other insects amenable to systemic RNAi, and may influence pest control approaches.
The growing availability of sequence information from diverse parasites through genomic and transcriptomic projects offer new opportunities for the identification of key mediators in the parasite–host interaction. Functional genomics approaches and methods for the manipulation of genes are essential tools for deciphering the roles of genes and to identify new intervention targets in parasites. Exciting advances in functional genomics for parasitic helminths are starting to occur, with transgene expression and RNA interference (RNAi) reported in several species of nematodes, but the area is still in its infancy in flatworms, with reports in just three species. While advancing in model organisms, there is a need to rapidly extend these technologies to other parasites responsible for several chronic diseases of humans and cattle. In order to extend these approaches to less well studied parasitic worms, we developed a test method for the presence of a viable RNAi pathway by silencing the exogenous reporter gene, firefly luciferase (fLUC). We established the method in the human blood fluke Schistosoma mansoni and then confirmed its utility in the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica. We transformed newly excysted juveniles of F. hepatica by electroporation with mRNA of fLUC and three hours later were able to detect luciferase enzyme activity, concentrated mainly in the digestive ceca. Subsequently, we tested the presence of an active RNAi pathway in F. hepatica by knocking down the exogenous luciferase activity by introduction into the transformed parasites of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) specific for fLUC. In addition, we tested the RNAi pathway targeting an endogenous F. hepatica gene encoding leucine aminopeptidase (FhLAP), and observed a significant reduction in specific mRNA levels. In summary, these studies demonstrated the utility of RNAi targeting reporter fLUC as a reporter gene assay to establish the presence of an intact RNAi pathway in helminth parasites. These could facilitate the study of gene function and the identification of relevant targets for intervention in organisms that are by other means intractable. More specifically, these results open new perspectives for functional genomics of F. hepatica, which hopefully can lead to the development of new interventions for fascioliasis.
Reverse genetics tools allow assessing the function of unknown genes. Their application for the study of neglected infectious diseases could lead eventually to the identification of relevant gene products to be used in diagnosis, or as drug targets or immunization candidates. Being technically more simple and less demanding than other reverse genetics tools such as transgenesis or knockouts, the suppression of gene activity mediated by double-stranded RNA has emerged as a powerful tool for the analysis of gene function. RNAi appeared as an obvious alternative to apply in complex biological systems where information is still scarce, a situation common to several infectious and parasitic diseases. However, several technical or practical difficulties have hampered the development of this technique in parasites to the expectations originally generated. We developed a simple method to test the presence of a viable RNAi pathway by silencing an exogenous reporter gene. The method was tested in F. hepatica, describing the conditions for transfection and confirming the existence of a viable RNAi pathway in this parasite. The experimental design created can be useful as a first approach in organisms where genetic analysis is still unavailable, providing a tool to unravel gene function and probably advancing new candidates relevant in pathobiology, prevention or treatment.
RNA interference (RNAi) is being used in large-scale genomic studies as a rapid way to obtain in vivo functional information associated with specific genes. How best to archive and mine the complex data derived from these studies provides a series of challenges associated with both the methods used to elicit the RNAi response and the functional data gathered. RNAiDB (RNAi Database; http://www.rnai.org) has been created for the archival, distribution and analysis of phenotypic data from large-scale RNAi analyses in Caenorhabditis elegans. The database contains a compendium of publicly available data and provides information on experimental methods and phenotypic results, including raw data in the form of images and streaming time-lapse movies. Phenotypic summaries together with graphical displays of RNAi to gene mappings allow quick intuitive comparison of results from different RNAi assays and visualization of the gene product(s) potentially inhibited by each RNAi experiment based on multiple sequence analysis methods. RNAiDB can be searched using combinatorial queries and using the novel tool PhenoBlast, which ranks genes according to their overall phenotypic similarity. RNAiDB could serve as a model database for distributing and navigating in vivo functional information from large-scale systematic phenotypic analyses in different organisms.
RNA interference (RNAi) leads to sequence-specific knockdown of gene function. The approach can be used in large-scale screens to interrogate function in various model organisms and an increasing number of other species. Genome-scale RNAi screens are routinely performed in cultured or primary cells or in vivo in organisms such as C. elegans. High-throughput RNAi screening is benefitting from the development of sophisticated new instrumentation and software tools for collecting and analyzing data, including high-content image data. The results of large-scale RNAi screens have already proved useful, leading to new understandings of gene function relevant to topics such as infection, cancer, obesity and aging. Nevertheless, important caveats apply and should be taken into consideration when developing or interpreting RNAi screens. Some level of false discovery is inherent to high-throughput approaches and specific to RNAi screens, false discovery due to off-target effects (OTEs) of RNAi reagents remains a problem. The need to improve our ability to use RNAi to elucidate gene function at large scale and in additional systems continues to be addressed through improved RNAi library design, development of innovative computational and analysis tools and other approaches.
RNAi; high-throughput screens; high-content imaging; cell-based assays
RNA interference (RNAi) is an effective tool for genome-scale, high-throughput analysis of gene function. In the past five years, a number of genome-scale RNAi high-throughput screens (HTSs) have been done in both Drosophila and mammalian cultured cells to study diverse biological processes, including signal transduction, cancer biology, and host cell responses to infection. Results from these screens have led to the identification of new components of these processes and, importantly, have also provided insights into the complexity of biological systems, forcing new and innovative approaches to understanding functional networks in cells. Here, we review the main findings that have emerged from RNAi HTS and discuss technical issues that remain to be improved, in particular the verification of RNAi results and validation of their biological relevance. Furthermore, we discuss the importance of multiplexed and integrated experimental data analysis pipelines to RNAi HTS.
bioinformatics; cell biology; Drosophila; high-throughput screening
The discovery of RNA interference (RNAi) in C. elegans and in plants has revolutionized current approaches to biology and medicine. RNAi silences genes in a sequence-specific manner through the actions of small pieces of double-stranded RNAs (siRNAs and miRNAs). RNAi has been found as a widespread natural phenomenon in eukaryotic cells and is also being used as a powerful experimental tool to explore gene function. Most importantly, it has many potential therapeutic applications. Viral gene-specific siRNAs are theoretically very promising antiviral inhibitors and have been examined in a broad range of medically important viruses. However, many RNA viruses escape RNAi-mediated suppression by counteracting the RNAi machinery through mutation of the targeted region, by encoding viral suppressors, or both. DNA viruses also counteract the RNAi machinery, preferentially using viral suppressors. Cellular factors may also contribute to RNAi resistance; ADAR1 was the first cellular factor found to be responsible for editing-mediated RNAi resistance. Because siRNAs can be used as potent small-molecule inhibitors of any cellular gene, the best way for a cell to maintain expression of essential genes for its long-term survival is to develop a program to resist the detrimental effects of RNAi.
RNA interference; siRNA; miRNA; gene expression; viral inhibitors; gene therapies
We expressed SID-1, a transmembrane protein from Caenorhabditis elegans that is required for systemic RNAi, in C. elegans neurons. This expression increased the response of neurons to dsRNA delivered by feeding. Mutations in the lin-15b and lin-35 genes further enhanced this effect. Worms expressing neuronal SID-1 showed RNAi phenotypes for known neuronal genes and for uncharacterized genes with no previously known neuronal phenotypes. Neuronal expression of sid-1 decreased non-neuronal RNAi, suggesting that neurons expressing transgenic sid-1(+) served as a sink for dsRNA. This effect, or a sid-1(−) background, can be used to uncover neuronal defects for lethal genes. Expression of sid-1(+) from cell-specific promoters in sid-1 mutants results in cell-specific feeding RNAi. We used these strains to identify a role for integrin signaling genes in mechanosensation.
In the last decade, many diverse RNAi (RNA interference) pathways have been discovered that mediate gene silencing at epigenetic, transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. The diversity of RNAi pathways is inherently linked to the evolution of Ago (Argonaute) proteins, the central protein component of RISCs (RNA-induced silencing complexes). An increasing number of diverse Agos have been identified in different species. The functions of most of these proteins are not yet known, but they are generally assumed to play roles in development, genome stability and/or protection against viruses. Recent research in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has expanded the breadth of RNAi functions to include transgenerational epigenetic memory and, possibly, environmental sensing. These functions are inherently linked to the production of secondary siRNAs (small interfering RNAs) that bind to members of a clade of WAGOs (worm-specific Agos). In the present article, we review briefly what is known about the evolution and function of Ago proteins in eukaryotes, including the expansion of WAGOs in nematodes. We postulate that the rapid evolution of WAGOs enables the exceptional functional plasticity of nematodes, including their capacity for parasitism.
Argonaute; helminth; microRNA (miRNA); nematode; RNA interference (RNAi); small interfering RNA (siRNA); Ago, Argonaute; ALG, Ago-like gene; At, Arabidopsis thaliana; CSR, chromosome segregation- and RNAi-deficient; miRNA, microRNA; piRNA, piwi-interacting RNA; PRG, Piwi-related gene; RdRP, RNA-dependent RNA polymerase; RDE, RNAi-defective; RISC, RNA-induced silencing complex; RNAi, RNA interference; siRNA, small interfering RNA; WAGO, worm-specific Ago
RNA interference (RNAi) is an important defence against viruses and transposable elements (TEs). RNAi not only protects against viruses by degrading viral RNA, but hosts and viruses can also use RNAi to manipulate each other's gene expression, and hosts can encode microRNAs that target viral sequences. In response, viruses have evolved a myriad of adaptations to suppress and evade RNAi. RNAi can also protect cells against TEs, both by degrading TE transcripts and by preventing TE expression through heterochromatin formation. The aim of our review is to summarize and evaluate the current data on the evolution of these RNAi defence mechanisms. To this end, we also extend a previous analysis of the evolution of genes of the RNAi pathways. Strikingly, we find that antiviral RNAi genes, anti-TE RNAi genes and viral suppressors of RNAi all evolve rapidly, suggestive of an evolutionary arms race between hosts and parasites. Over longer time scales, key RNAi genes are repeatedly duplicated or lost across the metazoan phylogeny, with important implications for RNAi as an immune defence.
antiviral RNAi; viral suppressors of RNAi; host–parasite coevolution; miRNA; piRNA; transposable element
Gene inactivation through RNA interference (RNAi) has proven to be a valuable tool for studying gene function in C. elegans. When combined with tissue-specific gene inactivation methods, RNAi has the potential to shed light on the function of a gene in distinct tissues. In this study we characterized C. elegans rrf-1 mutants to determine their ability to process RNAi in various tissues. These mutants have been widely used in RNAi studies to assess the function of genes specifically in the C. elegans germline. Upon closer analysis, we found that two rrf-1 mutants carrying different loss-of-function alleles were capable of processing RNAi targeting several somatically expressed genes. Specifically, we observed that the intestine was able to process RNAi triggers efficiently, whereas cells in the hypodermis showed partial susceptibility to RNAi in rrf-1 mutants. Other somatic tissues in rrf-1 mutants, such as the muscles and the somatic gonad, appeared resistant to RNAi. In addition to these observations, we found that the rrf-1(pk1417) mutation induced the expression of several transgenic arrays, including the FOXO transcription factor DAF-16. Unexpectedly, rrf-1(pk1417) mutants showed increased endogenous expression of the DAF-16 target gene sod-3; however, the lifespan and thermo-tolerance of rrf-1(pk1417) mutants were similar to those of wild-type animals. In sum, these data show that rrf-1 mutants display several phenotypes not previously appreciated, including broader tissue-specific RNAi-processing capabilities, and our results underscore the need for careful characterization of tissue-specific RNAi tools.
Gene silencing by RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful tool for functional genomics. Although RNAi was first described in Caenorhabditis elegans, several nematode species are unable to mount an RNAi response when exposed to exogenous double stranded RNA (dsRNA). These include the satellite model organisms Pristionchus pacificus and Oscheius tipulae. Available data also suggest that the RNAi pathway targeting exogenous dsRNA may not be fully functional in some animal parasitic nematodes. The genus Panagrolaimus contains bacterial feeding nematodes which occupy a diversity of niches ranging from polar, temperate and semi-arid soils to terrestrial mosses. Thus many Panagrolaimus species are adapted to tolerate freezing and desiccation and are excellent systems to study the molecular basis of environmental stress tolerance. We investigated whether Panagrolaimus is susceptible to RNAi to determine whether this nematode could be used in large scale RNAi studies in functional genomics.
We studied two species: Panagrolaimus sp. PS1159 and Panagrolaimus superbus. Both nematode species displayed embryonic lethal RNAi phenotypes following ingestion of Escherichia coli expressing dsRNA for the C. elegans embryonic lethal genes Ce-lmn-1 and Ce-ran-4. Embryonic lethal RNAi phenotypes were also obtained in both species upon ingestion of dsRNA for the Panagrolaimus genes ef1b and rps-2. Single nematode RT-PCR showed that a significant reduction in mRNA transcript levels occurred for the target ef1b and rps-2 genes in RNAi treated Panagrolaimus sp. 1159 nematodes. Visible RNAi phenotypes were also observed when P. superbus was exposed to dsRNA for structural genes encoding contractile proteins. All RNAi phenotypes were highly penetrant, particularly in P. superbus.
This demonstration that Panagrolaimus is amenable to RNAi by feeding will allow the development of high throughput methods of RNAi screening for P. superbus. This greatly enhances the utility of this nematode as a model system for the study of the molecular biology of anhydrobiosis and cryobiosis and as a possible satellite model nematode for comparative and functional genomics. Our data also identify another nematode infraorder which is amenable to RNAi and provide additional information on the diversity of RNAi phenotypes in nematodes.
While RNA interference (RNAi) has been deployed to facilitate gene function studies in diverse helminths, parasitic nematodes appear variably susceptible. To test if this is due to inter-species differences in RNAi effector complements, we performed a primary sequence similarity survey for orthologs of 77 Caenorhabditis elegans RNAi pathway proteins in 13 nematode species for which genomic or transcriptomic datasets were available, with all outputs subjected to domain-structure verification. Our dataset spanned transcriptomes of Ancylostoma caninum and Oesophagostomum dentatum, and genomes of Trichinella spiralis, Ascaris suum, Brugia malayi, Haemonchus contortus, Meloidogyne hapla, Meloidogyne incognita and Pristionchus pacificus, as well as the Caenorhabditis species C. brenneri, C. briggsae, C. japonica and C. remanei, and revealed that: (i) Most of the C. elegans proteins responsible for uptake and spread of exogenously applied double stranded (ds)RNA are absent from parasitic species, including RNAi-competent plant-nematodes; (ii) The Argonautes (AGOs) responsible for gene expression regulation in C. elegans are broadly conserved, unlike those recruited during the induction of RNAi by exogenous dsRNA; (iii) Secondary Argonautes (SAGOs) are poorly conserved, and the nuclear AGO NRDE-3 was not identified in any parasite; (iv) All five Caenorhabditis spp. possess an expanded RNAi effector repertoire relative to the parasitic nematodes, consistent with the propensity for gene loss in nematode parasites; (v) In spite of the quantitative differences in RNAi effector complements across nematode species, all displayed qualitatively similar coverage of functional protein groups. In summary, we could not identify RNAi effector deficiencies that associate with reduced susceptibility in parasitic nematodes. Indeed, similarities in the RNAi effector complements of RNAi refractory and competent nematode parasites support the broad applicability of this research genetic tool in nematodes.
Many organisms regulate gene expression through an RNA interference (RNAi) pathway, first characterized in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. This pathway can be triggered experimentally using double-stranded (ds)RNA to selected gene targets, thereby allowing researchers to ‘silence’ individual genes and so investigate their function. It is hoped that this technology will facilitate gene silencing in important parasitic nematodes that impose a considerable health and economic burden on mankind. Unfortunately, differences in RNAi susceptibility have been observed between species. Here we investigated the possibility that differences in the complement of effector proteins involved in the RNAi pathway are responsible for these differences in susceptibility. Our data revealed that most facets of the RNAi pathway are well represented across parasitic nematodes, although there were fewer pathway proteins in other nematodes compared to C. elegans. In contrast, the proteins responsible for uptake and spread of dsRNA are not well represented in parasitic nematodes. However, the importance of these differences is undermined by our observation that the protein complements in all the parasites were qualitatively similar, regardless of RNAi-susceptibility. Clearly, differences in the RNAi pathway of parasitic nematodes do not explain the variations in susceptibility to experimental RNAi.
Understanding gene function and genetic relationships is fundamental to our efforts to better understand biological systems. Previous studies systematically describing genetic interactions on a global scale have either focused on core biological processes in protozoans or surveyed catastrophic interactions in metazoans. Here, we describe a reliable high-throughput approach capable of revealing both weak and strong genetic interactions in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
We investigated interactions between 11 'query' mutants in conserved signal transduction pathways and hundreds of 'target' genes compromised by RNA interference (RNAi). Mutant-RNAi combinations that grew more slowly than controls were identified, and genetic interactions inferred through an unbiased global analysis of the interaction matrix. A network of 1,246 interactions was uncovered, establishing the largest metazoan genetic-interaction network to date. We refer to this approach as systematic genetic interaction analysis (SGI). To investigate how genetic interactions connect genes on a global scale, we superimposed the SGI network on existing networks of physical, genetic, phenotypic and coexpression interactions. We identified 56 putative functional modules within the superimposed network, one of which regulates fat accumulation and is coordinated by interactions with bar-1(ga80), which encodes a homolog of β-catenin. We also discovered that SGI interactions link distinct subnetworks on a global scale. Finally, we showed that the properties of genetic networks are conserved between C. elegans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but that the connectivity of interactions within the current networks is not.
Synthetic genetic interactions may reveal redundancy among functional modules on a global scale, which is a previously unappreciated level of organization within metazoan systems. Although the buffering between functional modules may differ between species, studying these differences may provide insight into the evolution of divergent form and function.
The design of RNA interference (RNAi) reagents is an essential step for performing loss-of-function studies in many experimental systems. The availability of sequenced and annotated genomes greatly facilitates RNAi experiments in an increasing number of organisms that were previously not genetically tractable. The E-RNAi web-service, accessible at http://www.e-rnai.org/, provides a computational resource for the optimized design and evaluation of RNAi reagents. The 2010 update of E-RNAi now covers 12 genomes, including Drosophila, Caenorhabditis elegans, human, emerging model organisms such as Schmidtea mediterranea and Acyrthosiphon pisum, as well as the medically relevant vectors Anopheles gambiae and Aedes aegypti. The web service calculates RNAi reagents based on the input of target sequences, sequence identifiers or by visual selection of target regions through a genome browser interface. It identifies optimized RNAi target-sites by ranking sequences according to their predicted specificity, efficiency and complexity. E-RNAi also facilitates the design of secondary RNAi reagents for validation experiments, evaluation of pooled siRNA reagents and batch design. Results are presented online, as a downloadable HTML report and as tab-delimited files.
Morphogenesis is an important component of animal development. Genetic redundancy has been proposed to be common among morphogenesis genes, posing a challenge to the genetic dissection of morphogenesis mechanisms. Genetic redundancy is more generally a challenge in biology, as large proportions of the genes in diverse organisms have no apparent loss of function phenotypes. Here, we present a screen designed to uncover redundant and partially redundant genes that function in an example of morphogenesis, gastrulation in Caenorhabditis elegans. We performed an RNA interference (RNAi) enhancer screen in a gastrulation-sensitized double-mutant background, targeting genes likely to be expressed in gastrulating cells or their neighbors. Secondary screening identified 16 new genes whose functions contribute to normal gastrulation in a nonsensitized background. We observed that for most new genes found, the closest known homologs were multiple other C. elegans genes, suggesting that some may have derived from rounds of recent gene duplication events. We predict that such genes are more likely than single copy genes to comprise redundant or partially redundant gene families. We explored this prediction for one gene that we identified and confirmed that this gene and five close relatives, which encode predicted substrate recognition subunits (SRSs) for a CUL-2 ubiquitin ligase, do indeed function partially redundantly with each other in gastrulation. Our results implicate new genes in C. elegans gastrulation, and they show that an RNAi-based enhancer screen in C. elegans can be used as an efficient means to identify important but redundant or partially redundant developmental genes.
Many aspects of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans biology are conserved between invertebrates and vertebrates establishing this particular organism as an excellent genetic model. Because of its small size, large populations and self-fertilization of the hermaphrodite, functional predictions carried out by genetic modifications as well as RNAi screens, can be rapidly tested.
In order to explore the function of a set of C. elegans genes of unknown function, as well as their potential functional roles in the human genome, we performed a phylogenetic analysis to select the most probable worm orthologs. A total of 13 C. elegans genes were subjected to down- regulation via RNAi and characterization of expression profiles using GFP strains. Previously unknown distinct expression patterns were observed for four of the analyzed genes, as well as four visible RNAi phenotypes. In addition, subcellular protein over-expression profiles of the human orthologs for seven out of the thirteen genes using human cells were also analyzed.
By combining a whole-organism approach using C. elegans with complementary experimental work done on human cell lines, this analysis extends currently available information on the selected set of genes.
RNA interference has evolved from being a nuisance biological phenomenon to a valuable research tool to determine gene function and as a therapeutic agent. Since pioneering observations regarding RNA interference were first reported in the 1990s from the nematode worm, plants and Drosophila, the RNAi phenomenon has since been reported in all eukaryotic organisms investigated from protozoans, plants, arthropods, fish and mammals. The design of RNAi therapeutics has progressed rapidly to designing dsRNA that can specifically and effectively silence disease related genes. Such technology has demonstrated the effective use of short interfering as therapeutics. In the absence of a B cell lineage in arthropods, and hence no long term vaccination strategy being available, the introduction of using RNA interference in crustacea may serve as an effective control and preventative measure for viral diseases for application in aquaculture.
RNA interference; Crustacea; Viruses; WSSV; YHV; TSV; PmergDNV; MrNV
RNA interference is a powerful method to understand gene function, especially when conducted at a whole-genome scale and in a quantitative context. In C. elegans, gene function can be knocked down simply and efficiently by feeding worms with bacteria expressing a dsRNA corresponding to a specific gene 1. While the creation of libraries of RNAi clones covering most of the C. elegans genome 2,3 opened the way for true functional genomic studies (see for example 4-7), most established methods are laborious. Moy and colleagues have developed semi-automated protocols that facilitate genome-wide screens 8. The approach relies on microscopic imaging and image analysis.
Here we describe an alternative protocol for a high-throughput genome-wide screen, based on robotic handling of bacterial RNAi clones, quantitative analysis using the COPAS Biosort (Union Biometrica (UBI)), and an integrated software: the MBioLIMS (Laboratory Information Management System from Modul-Bio) a technology that provides increased throughput for data management and sample tracking. The method allows screens to be conducted on solid medium plates. This is particularly important for some studies, such as those addressing host-pathogen interactions in C. elegans, since certain microbes do not efficiently infect worms in liquid culture.
We show how the method can be used to quantify the importance of genes in anti-fungal innate immunity in C. elegans. In this case, the approach relies on the use of a transgenic strain carrying an epidermal infection-inducible fluorescent reporter gene, with GFP under the control of the promoter of the antimicrobial peptide gene nlp 29 and a red fluorescent reporter that is expressed constitutively in the epidermis. The latter provides an internal control for the functional integrity of the epidermis and nonspecific transgene silencing9. When control worms are infected by the fungus they fluoresce green. Knocking down by RNAi a gene required for nlp 29 expression results in diminished fluorescence after infection. Currently, this protocol allows more than 3,000 RNAi clones to be tested and analyzed per week, opening the possibility of screening the entire genome in less than 2 months.
Molecular Biology; Issue 60; C. elegans; fluorescent reporter; Biosort; LIMS; innate immunity; Drechmeria coniospora
RNA interference (RNAi) is a well-conserved mechanism that uses small noncoding RNAs to silence gene expression posttranscriptionally. Gene regulation by RNAi is now recognized as one of the major regulatory pathways in eukaryotic cells. Although the main components of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have been identified, the molecular mechanisms regulating the activity of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have only begun to emerge within the last couple of years. Recently, high-throughput reporter assays to monitor the activity of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have been developed and used for proof-of-concept pilot screens. Both inhibitors and activators of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have been found. Although still in its infancy, a chemical biology approach using high-throughput chemical screens should open up a new avenue for dissecting the RNAi/miRNA pathway, as well as developing novel RNAi- or miRNA-based therapeutic interventions.