David Bartel

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David P. Bartel
Alma materGoshen College, Harvard University
Known forMicroRNAs
AwardsNAS Award in Molecular Biology (2005)
Scientific career
FieldsBiochemistry, Molecular Biology
InstitutionsWhitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisorJack Szostak

David P. Bartel, Ph.D. is an American molecular biologist best known for his work on microRNAs. Bartel is a Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Member of the Whitehead Institute, and investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). He earned his B.A. in Biology from Goshen College and his Ph.D. in Virology from Harvard University under the mentorship of Jack W. Szostak.[1]

While in the Szostak lab, Bartel isolated the first ribozymes directly from random sequence, using in vitro evolution (among these, the Class I ligase).[2] After he became independent at the Whitehead Institute, he further evolved this ribozyme to function as a RNA-dependent RNA polymerase to extend primers on external RNA templates, bolstering the "RNA world" theory.[3][4]

Bartel later shifted his research focus towards microRNA biology and in particular on understanding their regulatory functions.[5] MicroRNAs are short pieces of RNA, about 22 nucleotides long, that dampen gene expression through the silencing of messenger RNAs (mRNAs). His lab was one of three that found that animals have many of these small regulatory RNAs,[6][7][8] and he was the first to describe microRNAs in plants.[9][10] Through his work with microRNAs, he developed a methodology that predicts their regulatory targets and created the web-based tool TargetScan, which makes these predictions available to the research community.[11][12][13][14][15] His research has also shown that most human mRNAs are regulated by microRNAs and that microRNAs predominantly act to decrease the levels of their mRNA targets.[13][16]

Bartel also discovered several other types of regulatory RNAs, including heterochromatic siRNAs, which silence DNA instead of RNA.[17] In addition, Bartel is investigating the roles of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) and how the untranslated regions and tails of mRNAs recruit and mediate regulatory phenomena.[5]

Bartel is a founder and a scientific advisor of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, a company started in 2002 to advance “RNAi (RNA interference) therapeutics as a new class of innovative medicines”.[18]

In 2006, Bartel was placed second by Thomson Reuters in a 'citations' ranking in the field of Molecular Biology/Genetics. He has received several awards and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2011.[19]


  1. ^ "David P. Bartel '82". Goshen Bulletin. 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  2. ^ Science. 1993 Sep 10;261(5127):1411-8. "Isolation of new ribozymes from a large pool of random sequences." Bartel DP, Szostak JW.
  3. ^ Trends Cell Biol. 1999 Dec;9(12):M9-M13. "Constructing an RNA world." Bartel DP, Unrau PJ.
  4. ^ Johnston, WK; Unrau, PJ; Lawrence, MS; Glasner, ME; Bartel, DP (18 May 2001). "RNA-catalyzed RNA polymerization: accurate and general RNA-templated primer extension". Science. 292 (5520): 1319–25. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1060786. PMID 11358999.
  5. ^ a b "David Bartel". HHMI. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  6. ^ "Science". 2001 Oct 26;294(5543):853-8. "Identification of novel genes coding for small expressed RNAs." Lagos-Quintana M1, Rauhut R, Lendeckel W, Tuschl T.
  7. ^ "Science". 2001 Oct 26;294(5543):858-62. "An abundant class of tiny RNAs with probable regulatory roles in Caenorhabditis elegans." Lau NC1, Lim LP, Weinstein EG, Bartel DP.
  8. ^ "Science". 2001 Oct 26;294(5543):862-4. "An extensive class of small RNAs in Caenorhabditis elegans. Lee RC1, Ambros V.
  9. ^ "Genes Dev." 2002 Jul 1;16(13):1616-26. "MicroRNAs in plants." Reinhart BJ1, Weinstein EG, Rhoades MW, Bartel B, Bartel DP.
  10. ^ "Cell". 2002 Aug 23;110(4):513-20. "Prediction of plant microRNA targets." Rhoades MW1, Reinhart BJ, Lim LP, Burge CB, Bartel B, Bartel DP.
  11. ^ "Cell". 2005 Jan 14;120(1):15-20. "Conserved seed pairing, often flanked by adenosines, indicates that thousands of human genes are microRNA targets." Lewis BP, Burge CB, Bartel DP.
  12. ^ "Mol Cell". 2007 Jul 6;27(1):91-105. "MicroRNA targeting specificity in mammals: determinants beyond seed pairing." Grimson A1, Farh KK, Johnston WK, Garrett-Engele P, Lim LP, Bartel DP.
  13. ^ a b "Genome Res." 2009 Jan;19(1):92-105. "Most mammalian mRNAs are conserved targets of microRNAs." Friedman RC1, Farh KK, Burge CB, Bartel DP.
  14. ^ Agarwal, Vikram; Bell, George W.; Nam, Jin-Wu; Bartel, David P. (2015-08-12). "Predicting effective microRNA target sites in mammalian mRNAs". eLife. 4: e05005. doi:10.7554/eLife.05005. ISSN 2050-084X. PMC 4532895. PMID 26267216. Archived from the original on August 27, 2015.
  15. ^ Agarwal, V; Subtelny, AO; Thiru, P; Ulitsky, I; Bartel, DP (4 October 2018). "Predicting microRNA targeting efficacy in Drosophila". Genome biology. 19 (1): 152. doi:10.1186/s13059-018-1504-3. PMID 30286781.
  16. ^ Guo, H; Ingolia, NT; Weissman, JS; Bartel, DP (12 August 2010). "Mammalian microRNAs predominantly act to decrease target mRNA levels". Nature. 466 (7308): 835–40. doi:10.1038/nature09267. PMC 2990499. PMID 20703300.
  17. ^ Reinhart, BJ; Bartel, DP (13 September 2002). "Small RNAs correspond to centromere heterochromatic repeats". Science. 297 (5588): 1831. doi:10.1126/science.1077183. PMID 12193644.
  18. ^ "Scientific Advisory Board". Alnylam.com. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  19. ^ "Whitehead Member David Bartel elected to National Academy of Sciences". Retrieved 25 January 2015.

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