Treatment with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) has been shown to interfere with the function of specific genes in various invertebrate species. However, it has not yet been reported that this technique can be applied to vertebrates as well. We have investigated whether dsRNA treatment will inhibit gene function in zebrafish embryos. By microinjecting dsRNA corresponding to three genetically characterised genes we produced embryonic defects that were similar to the known mutant phenotypes of these loci. The efficiency of inducing specific defects (20-30%) was about 10-fold higher than in experiments with antisense RNA. We also observed that the level of the endogenous mRNA in zebrafish embryos was substantially reduced throughout the embryo following dsRNA injection. However, the interference of gene function showed a strong dependence on the amount of dsRNA. These findings suggest that dsRNA-mediated interference will become an important tool for analysing the functional roles of genes in zebrafish and other vertebrates.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.