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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2004 Apr;14(2):174-80.

Those interfering little RNAs! Silencing and eliminating chromatin.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, 6.34 Swann Building, King's Buildings, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JR, UK.


RNA interference (RNAi) is widely used for knocking down expression of genes of interest and in systematic screens for desired phenotypes. In post-transcriptional gene silencing, double-stranded RNA triggers are processed to small interfering RNAs, which act to seek out and destroy homologous transcripts. A variety of organisms utilise the RNAi pathway to silence expression of potentially harmful endogenous mobile elements and to eliminate unnecessary sequences. In plants and fission yeast, RNAi can also mediate chromatin-based silencing resulting in transcriptional shutdown of homologous transcription units (transcriptional gene silencing) and the formation of centromeric heterochromatin. In metazoans, the expression of non-coding RNAs is often associated with the formation of silent chromatin domains but it remains to be determined if RNAi is involved.

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