Small RNA-mediated gene silencing pathways in C. elegans

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2010 Aug;42(8):1306-15. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2010.03.006. Epub 2010 Mar 19.


Small RNA pathways, including the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway and the microRNA (miRNA) pathway, regulate gene expression, defend against transposable elements and viruses, and, in some organisms, guide genome rearrangements. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) has been at the forefront of small RNA research; not only were the first miRNAs and their function as regulators of gene expression discovered in C. elegans, but also double-stranded RNA-induced gene silencing by RNAi was discovered in this model organism. Since then, genetic and RNAi-mediated screens, candidate gene approaches, and biochemical studies have uncovered numerous factors in the small RNA pathways and painted a rich palette of interacting pathways. Here we review the different small RNAs that have been discovered in C. elegans and discuss our understanding of their biogenesis pathways and mechanisms of action.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / immunology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / virology
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics
  • Gene Silencing*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference
  • Signal Transduction*


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • MicroRNAs