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Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Jan 7;41(1):e9. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks797. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

siSPOTR: a tool for designing highly specific and potent siRNAs for human and mouse.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Program in Molecular & Cellular Biology, Institute for Clinical & Translational Science, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


RNA interference (RNAi) serves as a powerful and widely used gene silencing tool for basic biological research and is being developed as a therapeutic avenue to suppress disease-causing genes. However, the specificity and safety of RNAi strategies remains under scrutiny because small inhibitory RNAs (siRNAs) induce off-target silencing. Currently, the tools available for designing siRNAs are biased toward efficacy as opposed to specificity. Prior work from our laboratory and others' supports the potential to design highly specific siRNAs by limiting the promiscuity of their seed sequences (positions 2-8 of the small RNA), the primary determinant of off-targeting. Here, a bioinformatic approach to predict off-targeting potentials was established using publically available siRNA data from more than 50 microarray experiments. With this, we developed a specificity-focused siRNA design algorithm and accompanying online tool which, upon validation, identifies candidate sequences with minimal off-targeting potentials and potent silencing capacities. This tool offers researchers unique functionality and output compared with currently available siRNA design programs. Furthermore, this approach can greatly improve genome-wide RNAi libraries and, most notably, provides the only broadly applicable means to limit off-targeting from RNAi expression vectors.

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