RNA interference and the use of small interfering RNA to study gene function in mammalian systems

    1. J B Uney
    1. The Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience and Endocrinology, Dorothy Hodgkin Building, University of Bristol, Whitson Street, Bristol BS1 3NY, UK
    2. 1The Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, 6 International Airport Avenue, P.O. Box 3462, 1683 Nicosia, Cyprus
    1. (Requests for offprints should be addressed to J B Uney; Email: james.uney{at}bristol.ac.uk)


    In the past 2 years, extraordinary developments in RNA interference (RNAi)-based methodologies have seen small interfering RNAs (siRNA) become the method of choice for researchers wishing to target specific genes for silencing. In this review, an historic overview of the biochemistry of the RNAi pathway is described together with the latest advances in the RNAi field. Particular emphasis is given to strategies by which siRNAs are used to study mammalian gene function. In this regard, the use of plasmid-based and viral vector-based systems to mediate long-term RNAi in vitro and in vivo are described. However, recent work has shown that non-specific silencing effects and activation of the interferon response may occur following the use of some siRNA and delivery vector combinations. Future goals must therefore be to understand the mechanisms by which siRNA delivery leads to unwanted gene silencing effects in cells and, in this way, RNAi technology can reach its tremendous potential as a scientific tool and ultimately be used for therapeutic purposes.

    • Received 5 May 2004
    • Accepted 14 July 2004
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 26 July 2004
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