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GEN’s editorial staff interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.

A research team from Washington University in St. Louis says it has made a major advance in understanding the phenomenon of nucleolar dominance, the silencing of an entire parental set of ribosomal RNA genes in a hybrid plant or animal. They published their results in Molecular Cell on December 4.

Since the machinery involved in nucleolar dominance is some of the same that can go haywire in diseases such as cancer, the scientists believe their work may have important applications in a number of areas. Although biologists have been studying nucleolar dominance since the 1920s, this phenomenon remained largely unresolved until recently, when Dr. Craig Pikaard's lab reversed an old dogma.

During this week's podcast, Dr. Pikaard discusses the involvement of ribosomal RNA in nucleolar dominanace. He also addresses the issue of what dogma his group overturned through its research project and provides specific details on the major implications of the research study for applied medical research.
Craig S. Pikaard earned a B.S. degree in Horticulture from the Pennsylvania State University in 1980 and a PhD in Plant Physiology from Purdue University in 1985. He then conducted postdoctoral research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as an NIH fellow. Craig joined the faculty of Washington University in 1990 where he now holds the rank of professor in the Biology Department. Craig’s lab is interested in chromatin-mediated gene silencing. One sub-group within the lab is focused on understanding the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms responsible for nucleolar dominance. A second sub-group is focused on understanding the roles of two plant-specific enzymes, nuclear RNA polymerases IV and V, in siRNA-mediated DNA methylation and gene silencing. These efforts led recently to Craig's election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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