Abstract: Series 99, Lecture 1

The Harvey Lectures Series 99 (2003—2004)

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Lecture #1: Thursday, October 16, 2003 — Time and Location

The Tiny RNA World

Gary Ruvkun, PhD

Professor of Genetics and Chief, Molecular Biology
Department of Molecular Biology
Department of Genetics

Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Boston, Massachusetts

We have been studying the smallest genes, those that encode the 21 to 25 nucleotide microRNAs. The first of these microRNA genes were detected by genetic analysis of the C. elegans developmental timing pathway by Victor Ambros, and we discovered how this microRNA regulates its target gene. We found the second microRNA gene by further genetic analysis of C. elegans developmental timing, and that this microRNA is conserved in a wide range of bilaterian animals. We have also surveyed the C. elegans genome for microRNA genes and have found hundreds of candidates that are also conserved across animal phylogeny. We have been using full genome RNAi screens and genetics to discover the biochemical pathway by which microRNAs are generated as well as their targets. These studies reveal much overlap between the biochemical pathways of RNAi and natural microRNAs.