This post was contributed by guest blogger, Robert Orr, who recently received a Ph.D. in Biology and Biotechnology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
What is RNAi?
The loss-of-function (LOF) experiment functions as the building block of our understanding of complex biological processes. Many tools exist to perturb biological function in a direct or unbiased way at the DNA, RNA, or protein level. The “correct” choice of tool requires careful balancing of the inherent advantages and limitations of any technique in the context of the biological question. For example, while gene knockouts have long been considered the “gold-standard” for LOF studies, the high gene copy number found in plants makes traditional knockouts unattractive from a practical perspective. Therefore, techniques that function downstream of DNA, such as RNA interference, can reversibly exert their effect independent of gene copy number.