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Trends Biotechnol. 2006 Apr;24(4):186-93. Epub 2006 Feb 28.

The silent treatment: RNAi as a defense against virus infection in mammals.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-2280, USA.


RNA interference (RNAi) is a mechanism for sequence-specific gene silencing guided by double-stranded RNA. In plants and insects it is well established that RNAi is instrumental in the response to viral infections; whether RNAi has a similar function in mammals is under intense investigation. Recent studies to address this question have identified some unanticipated interactions between the RNAi machinery and mammalian viruses. Furthermore, introduction of virus-specific small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) into cells, thus programming the RNAi machinery to target viruses, is an effective therapeutic approach to inhibit virus replication in vitro and in animal models. Although several issues remain to be addressed, such as delivery and viral escape, these findings hold tremendous potential for the development of RNAi-based antiviral therapeutics.

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