DATABASE: To Know the Worm

Science  16 Sep 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5742, pp. 1795
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5742.1795a

About 20,000 genes orchestrate a nematode's development and keep it squirming throughout its life. To tease out each gene's role, scientists are deploying RNA interference (RNAi), a technique for silencing genes. Worm fans can track the results of these studies at The RNAi Database, maintained by Kris Gunsalus, Philip MacMenamin, and Fabio Piano of New York University.

Housing results from the WormBase genome database and the researchers' own lab, the site records experiments on more than 18,000 genes. Users can uncover the consequences of blocking a particular gene or search for studies that elicited a specific defect, such as slow growth or sterility. A new feature called PhenoBlast corrals genes whose disruption induced the same range of abnormalities. To help users visualize what goes wrong with the animals, many of the entries furnish photos and movies. Included are pictures of the early development for a wild-type embryo and an embryo treated with RNAi against the gene for the protein actin. The actin-deprived embryo can't divide properly, but its chromosomes keep replicating, so it becomes a single cell with multiple nuclei.

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