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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Aug 14;98(17):9742-7. Epub 2001 Jul 31.

Specific inhibition of gene expression by small double-stranded RNAs in invertebrate and vertebrate systems.

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Medical Genetics Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are double-stranded RNAs of approximately 21-25 nucleotides that have been shown to function as key intermediaries in triggering sequence-specific RNA degradation during posttranscriptional gene silencing in plants and RNA interference in invertebrates. siRNAs have a characteristic structure, with 5'-phosphate/3'-hydroxyl ends and a 2-base 3' overhang on each strand of the duplex. In this study, we present data that synthetic siRNAs can induce gene-specific inhibition of expression in Caenorhabditis elegans and in cell lines from humans and mice. In each case, the interference by siRNAs was superior to the inhibition of gene expression mediated by single-stranded antisense oligonucleotides. The siRNAs seem to avoid the well documented nonspecific effects triggered by longer double-stranded RNAs in mammalian cells. These observations may open a path toward the use of siRNAs as a reverse genetic and therapeutic tool in mammalian cells.

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