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Carthew Appointed Coon Professor

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August 22, 2006

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Richard W. Carthew, professor of molecular biology and cell biology, has been reappointed the Owen L. Coon Professor of Molecular Biology at Northwestern University.

Carthew investigates the role of RNA in regulating gene expression, known as RNAi. RNAi mediates widespread defense against transposable elements and viruses and regulates the expression of cellular protein-coding genes.

He and fellow researchers study the mechanism and function of this process in the model system Drosophila melanogaster. They combine genetics and biochemistry in Drosophila to understand its mechanistic principles.

RNAi has had a profound effect in the fields of development and cell biology, functional genomics, human disease and drug therapy. This is particularly true with the small non-coding RNAs called “microRNAs,” which constitute three percent of the genes in the human genome. MicroRNAs repress the expression of protein-coding genes by attenuating protein synthesis.

Carthew seeks to understand how microRNAs specifically inhibit their target genes and the biological consequences of this regulation. He and fellow researchers hope to decipher the rules of microRNA regulation regarding target and biological specificity in diverse tissues of the body. Misregulation of microRNAs appears to underlie complex disease phenomena such as cancer susceptibility and progression.

Carthew has published articles in Science, Nature and Cell.