Genes are team players. They don't work isolated, but form a highly complex and interactive network which leads to the specific phenotype of the cell. Cancerous cells, for example, not only carry various gene mutations that change their characteristics, these mutations are also believed to affect each other. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), one of CellNetwork’s partner institutions, want to understand how these interactions take place and what effect they have on the behavior of cells.

To find out how genetic networks are constructed, the scientists apply a technique called RNA interference (RNAi): They systematically silence the activity of single genes and pairwise gene combinations. High-resolution images and bioinformatic analyses give information about changes in the living cells.

The team of group leader Michael Boutros analyzes the interplay of thousands of genes. Using robots, automated microscopy and enormous processing power, they perform 61 000 experiments and produce 6 Terabyte of imaging data every week. This giant dataset will advance the understanding of how genes and mutations influence each other.