Monday, March 14, 2011
Small Interfering RNA
Small interfering RNA (siRNA), sometimes known as short interfering RNA or silencing RNA, are a class of 20-25 nucleotide-long double-stranded RNA molecules that play a variety of roles in biology. Most notably, siRNA is involved in the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway where the siRNA interferes with the expression of a specific gene.
In addition to their role in the RNAi pathway, siRNAs also act in RNAi-related pathways, e.g. as an antiviral mechanism or in shaping the chromatin structure of a genome; the complexity of these pathways is only now being elucidated.
siRNAs were first discovered by David Baulcombe's group in Norwich, England, as part of post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) in plants, and published their findings in Science in a paper titled "A species of small antisense RNA in posttranscriptional gene silencing in plants". Shortly thereafter, in 2001, synthetic siRNAs were then shown to be able to induce RNAi in mammalian cells by Thomas Tuschl and colleagues in a paper published in Nature. This discovery led to a surge in interest in harnessing RNAi for biomedical research and drug development.