Lindsey McFarlane

Project: Investigating mechanisms of small RNA-mediated gene silencing in fish

The objective of this project is to understand the mechanism(s) of RNA silencing pathways in fish in order to enhance our capacity to experimentally manipulate these pathways as a means of specifically silencing ‘target’ genes. Specifically, this knowledge will allow for the rational design of a more potent ‘daughterless construct’, which when introduced into carp is intended to prevent development of the female phenotype, leading to a ‘daughterless’ population unable to reproduce.

The Daughterless Carp Project aims to genetically manipulate carp in order to prevent the development of phenotypic females with the consequence that only phenotypic males reach sexual maturity and the species essentially breeds itself into extinction. The current research focus is directed toward ‘switching off’ genes required for differentiation of the female phenotype by experimentally manipulating a family of naturally occurring biochemical pathways known collectively as RNA silencing.

Although mechanisms of RNA silencing are relatively well understood in a number of species, our understanding of how these pathways operate in fish is limited. Instead, attempts to experimentally manipulate RNA silencing pathways in fish rely upon information derived from other species with the assumption that RNA silencing pathways in fish are functionally similar to those of other species. Results from attempts using this approach to ‘switch off’ genes in fish, however, are variable and it is not clear whether this assumption is valid.

My research tests this assumption through characterising the RNA silencing pathways in fish, and in doing so, provides the first mechanistic detail of how these pathways function in fish. Understanding how these pathways naturally function in fish, will allow attempts to experimentally manipulate RNA silencing mechanisms to more closely mimic the natural inducers of these pathways, thus making this approach to ‘switching off’ specific carp genes more effective.

Background

Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours, Australian National University
Bachelor of Science Advanced (Biochemistry), University of New England, NSW

I have worked as a Technical Officer for the Comparative Molecular Development lab, ANU; as a Field Assistant, Laboratory Assistant, and Laboratory Technician.

Publications and Presentations

  • Presentation given at the 2nd Australian Sex Summit, 3rd-5th December 2009, Flowerdale Estate, Victoria, Australia.
  • Presentation given at the Joint annual science review meeting of Lake Ecosystem Restoration New Zealand (LERNZ) and Freshwater Products and Strategies Program of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC), 23-25 June 2009, The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.
  • Presentation given at the Zebrafish Seminar Series, 1st July 2009, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Australia.
  • Presentation given at the Developmental Genetics Division Seminar Series, 9th July 2009, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Australia.

lindsey_mcfarlane

Project details

CRC Program:
Freshwater Products and Strategies

Locations:
Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland

Supervisors:
Dagmar Wilhelm
Peter Koopman (UQ)
Ron Thresher (CSIRO, Hobart)

Prizes

2005 Faculty of the Sciences Award in Academic Excellence
2004 Sigma-Aldrich Prize for Biochemistry
2004 Staff Prize for Microbiology
2004 Barker Prize in Genetics
2004 Research School of Biological Sciences Summer Scholarship
2003 Faculty of the Sciences Biological Sciences Prize