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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2001 Apr;13(2):244-8.

Gene silencing by double-stranded RNA.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA.


Eukaryotes silence gene expression in the presence of double-stranded RNA homologous to the silenced gene. Silencing occurs by the targeted degradation of mRNA. Biochemical reactions that recapitulate this phenomenon generate RNA fragments of 21--23 nucleotides from the double-stranded RNA. These stably associate with an RNA endonuclease and probably serve as a discriminator to select mRNAs. Once selected, mRNAs are cleaved at sites 21--23 nucleotides apart. This mechanism, termed RNAi, has functional links to viral defense and silencing phenomena, such as cosuppression. It also functions to repress the hopping of transposable elements.

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