FRAXA Research Grant to Richard Carthew, PhD — Northwestern University

Carthew-Richardwith Young Sik Lee, PhD, FRAXA Postdoctoral Fellow


FRAXA Awards:

$40,000 in 2004
$35,000 in 2003

The Carthew lab is interested in mechanisms of gene expression, and is investigating the role of the recently discovered process of interfering RNA (RNAi). FMRP appears to be involved in the metabolism of RNAi, and may have a role in regulating the process; likewise, deficits in RNAi may contribute to the disease process in fragile X.


Connection Between Fragile X Syndrome and RNAi

by Richard Carthew, 7/1/2004

Two years ago, several papers were published showing that the Fragile X gene is involved in RNAi (“interfering RNA”). RNAi is a widespread biological process that until 1998 remained undiscovered, but that plays important roles in combatting viral infection, organizing chromosome DNA, and silencing gene expression during embryo development. A major question now being asked is how the Fragile X gene normally contributes to the RNAi process. Moreover, does Fragile X syndrome arise because human RNAi is working improperly, due to the absence of FMR1?

Our lab studies RNAi in the fruitfly and has done some incisive experiments to understand this conserved process in both flies and humans. So far, this study has not found definite links between the fruitfly FMR1 gene and RNAi. However, not all potential avenues linking FMR1 and RNAi have been explored, Additional experiments to be conducted over the coming year should give us a clear idea of whether or not there is a general role for the Fragile X gene in RNAi. This is an important mechanism of biological control, so it is important to know whether Fragile X might in any way be related to RNAi.