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Final Activity Report Summary - FAMED (Functional analysis of miRNAs during early development)

The FAMED programme set out to stimulate research in the field of Ribonucleic acid (RNA) mediated regulation, particularly pertaining to the role of microRNAs (miRNA) in several developmental settings. Four research groups from the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, FORTH, joined forces to investigate various aspects of RNA regulation and development. A total of 10 early stage fellows were recruited, six of which were long-term, whereas the remaining four visited for six to twelve months. All had obtained their academic degree, either MSc or PhD, or were close to obtaining it by the time of the project completion.

Major scientific highlights included the establishment of miRNA sensor technology in all four laboratories. This was an in vivo technique that allowed us to monitor the activity of specific miRNAs. As it was based on fluorescent proteins, it could be used both on fixed and live tissues. The Delidakis laboratory performed a detailed dissection of the role of miRNA regulation versus the more widely studied transcriptional regulation on a set of genes in their in vivo developmental context in the fruitfly drosophila. These genes were important targets of an intensely studied signalling pathway, which was encountered in all animals and implicated in a number of human pathologies. They further extended their findings in drosophila to a distantly related arthropod species, where interesting evolutionary similarities were detected.

Moreover, the Averof laboratory studied the evolution of protein-mediated and miRNA-mediated translational repression events with important roles in early development of insects. On the other hand, the Kalantidis laboratory performed bioinformatics' analysis of miRNA-target recognition. Subsequently, they focussed on the interplay of RNA silencing mechanisms with metabolic and environmental factors in plants. The Tavernarakis laboratory focussed on the study of messenger RNA (mRNA) turnover during aging in the nematode worm c. elegans. The metabolism of mRNA was regulated by, among others, miRNAs and was a heretofore little-studied aspect in gene expression. They furthermore generated many RNA-based tools for gene knockdown and genetic studies in c. elegans.

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