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Brain Res Bull. 2005 Dec 15;68(1-2):115-20. Epub 2005 Sep 9.

Design of shRNAs for RNAi-A lesson from pre-miRNA processing: possible clinical applications.

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  • Brain Repair Group, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue Box 911, Cardiff, Wales CF10 3US, UK. pekarikv@cf.ac.uk


RNA interference has become the tool of choice to analyse the loss-of-function of individual genes and has been exploited to identify complex regulatory pathways following genomic screening. RNAi has both admirers and detractors, but is undeniably a technique with great potential, which has come a long way in the short time since its discovery. RNAi utilises cellular machinery associated with the processing of naturally occurring micro RNA (miRNAs). Effective use of RNAi requires detailed knowledge of the individual steps and the proteins involved, as well as the similarities and distinctions between miRNA and siRNA pathways. RNAi was originally induced by the introduction of long double stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) into cells in which the RNA was cleaved into short RNAs which effectively interfered with a transcription of cognate mRNA. More recently an introduction of short approximately 22 nucleotide RNA duplexes has become the standard in short-term experiments, but is insufficient for long-term knock-down assays. Long-term expression of siRNAs has been achieved by in vivo transcription from plasmids coding for short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs). The cellular processing of shRNAs shares common features with the biogenesis of naturally occurring miRNA such as cleavage by nuclear RNase Drosha, export from the nucleus, processing by a cytoplasmic RNase Dicer, and incorporation into the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). Each step has a crucial influence on the efficiency of RNAi and their consideration should be a part of a standard experimental design. RNAi has moved from a purely experimental technique to the stage of potential clinical applications. The possible use of RNAi in the treatment of spinocerebellar ataxia or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, with its advantages and pitfalls and possible extensions to other diseases are discussed.

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