Using RNA interference to identify genes required for RNA interference.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a phenomenon in which double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) silences endogenous gene expression. By injecting pools of dsRNAs into Caenorhabditis elegans, we identified a dsRNA that acts as a potent suppressor of the RNAi mechanism. We have used coinjection of dsRNAs to identify four additional candidates for genes involved in the RNAi mechanism in C. elegans. Three of the genes are C. elegans mes genes, some of which encode homologs of the Drosophila chromatin-binding Polycomb-group proteins. We have used loss-of-function mutants to confirm a role for mes-3, -4, and -6 in RNAi. Interestingly, introducing very low levels of dsRNA can bypass a requirement for these genes in RNAi. The finding that genes predicted to encode proteins that associate with chromatin are involved in RNAi in C. elegans raises the possibility that chromatin may play a role in RNAi in animals, as it does in plants.