Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


RNA Therapeutics Institute

First Thesis Advisor

Phillip D. Zamore, Ph.D.


RNA Interference, MicroRNAs, RNA, Small Interfering, Drosophila Proteins, Methyltransferases, RNA-Induced Silencing Complex, RNA 3' End Processing, Plants, RNA Helicases, RNA-Binding Proteins


In 1990, Richard Jorgensen’s lab initiated a study to test if they could create a more vivid color petunia (Napoli et al. 1990). Their plan was to transform plants with the chalcone synthase transgene––the predicted rate limiting factor in the production of purple pigmentation. Much to their surprise, the transgenic plants, as well as their progeny, displayed a great reduction in pigmentation. This loss of endogenous function was termed “cosuppression” and it was thought that sequence-specific repression resulted from over-expression of the homologous transgene sequence. In 1998, Andrew Fire and Craig Mello described a phenomenon in which double stranded RNA (dsRNA) can trigger silencing of cognate sequences when injected into the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans (Fire et al. 1998). This data explained observations seen years earlier by other worm researchers, and suggested that repression of pigmentation in plants was caused by a dsRNA-intermediate (Guo and Kemphues 1995; Napoli et al. 1990). The phenomenon––which soon after was coined RNA interference (RNAi)––was soon discovered to be a post-transcriptional surveillance system in plants and animals to remove foreign nucleic acids.



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