Gene silencing

Gene silencing describes the epigenetic regulation of a gene, at the level of transcription or translation, to prevent gene expression. Mechanisms include DNA methylation, histone modification and RNAi. Methods to silence genes are exploited by researchers to study gene function, and for the development of therapeutics for diseases including cancer, infectious diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.

Latest Research and Reviews

News and Comment

  • News and Views |

    Small RNAs guide nuclear Argonaute proteins to silence genomic target loci via recruitment of factors that lead to formation of repressive heterochromatin. Animal gonads use this pathway to repress transposable elements with PIWI-clade Argonaute proteins and their associated small RNAs called PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs). Four research groups now identify a protein complex that acts as a molecular bridge between the piRNA pathway and the epigenetic silencing machinery.

    • David Homolka
    •  & Ramesh S. Pillai
  • News and Views |

    Epigenetic memory of silent chromatin often requires robust feedback loops between factors processing small non-coding RNAs and enzymes involved in heterochromatin assembly. A study published in Molecular Cell now demonstrates that these feedback loops can persist in a phenotypically neutral state even when gene expression is reactivated, and that they maintain the potential to reinstall heterochromatin in later generations when conditions change.

    • Matías Capella
    •  & Sigurd Braun
  • Research Highlights |

    Increased shortening of RNA 3′ untranslated regions associated with tumorigenic transformation interferes with competing endogenous RNA (eRNA) networks, which results in trans-repression of tumour suppressors through microRNA-mediated silencing.

    • Paulina Strzyz
    Nature Reviews Cancer 18, 466-467