The shortage of functional information compared to the abundance of sequence information characterizes today’s situation in functional genomics. For many years the knock-down of a gene’s product has been the most powerful way of analysing its function. In addition to the complete knock-out by homologous recombination, several different techniques have been developed to temporarily knock down gene expression through methods based on specific sequence recognition, such as knockdown by antisense oligonucleotides, ribozymes, aptamers or RNAi. The ESF workshop on ‘Impact of Nucleic Acid Chemistry on Gene Function Analysis’ brought together researchers who use techniques that are different but highly related. It offered an opportunity for an in-depth discussion of recent progress and common problems. Antisense oligonucleotides, aptamers and ribozymes are techniques that have been used successfully for many years to validate targets. However, recent developments, such as increased tightness of binding (e.g. locked nucleic acids) or the combination of different methods (e.g. using aptamers to design ribozymes), have continued to improve the existing techniques. RNA interference (RNAi) is a defence mechanism of the cell against viruses. Since the exact mechanism of action within the cell is still unclear, RNAi was a particularly exciting topic at the workshop and was addressed in the largest number of presentations. Predictability of positional effects (accessibility of RNA) is a problem shared by all techniques using sequence-specific recognition and was the subject of quite controversial debates. The meeting comprised over 50 people from 14 countries (13 European countries and the USA).