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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

RCAS-RNAi: A loss-of-function method for the developing chick retina

Sanjiv Harpavat and Constance L Cepko*

Author Affiliations

Department of Genetics and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA

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BMC Developmental Biology 2006, 6:2  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-6-2

Published: 22 January 2006



The embryonic chick provides an excellent model system for studies of development. However, it has lacked an efficient loss-of-function method for studies of gene function.


We show that avian retroviruses can deliver hairpins mediating RNA interference to the developing chick eye. These viruses 'knock down' specific genes in infected areas of the retina. The knock down persists as the retina matures and can be detected using in situ hybridization. Furthermore, the amount of retinal tissue affected can be controlled by manipulating the degree of infection.


This technique provides a rapid and efficient loss-of-function option for studies in the developing chick retina.