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RNA Interference and Gene Silencing: History and Overview

t on the subject (3, 25, 26). In one notable series of experiments, Zamore and colleagues found that dsRNA added to Drosophila embryo lysates was processed to 21-23 nucleotide species. They also found that the homologous endogenous mRNA was cleaved only in the region corresponding to the introduced dsRNA and that cleavage occurred at 21-23 nucleotide intervals (26). Rapidly, the mechanism of RNAi was becoming clear.

Current Models of the RNAi Mechanism
Both biochemical and genetic approaches (see "The Genes and Enzymes Involved in PTGS and RNAi" below for a discussion of genetic approaches used to undersand RNAi) have led to the current models of the RNAi mechanism. In these models, RNAi includes both initiation and effector steps (27, see also a Flash animation of "How Does RNAi Work?", from reference 3).

In the initiation step, input dsRNA is digested into 21-23 nucleotide small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which have also been called "guide RNAs" (reviewed in 3, 18, 27). Evidence indicates that siRNAs are produced when the enzyme Dicer, a member of the RNase III family of dsRNA-specific ribonucleases, processively cleaves dsRNA (introduced directly or via a transgene or virus) in an ATP-dependent, processive manner. Successive cleavage events degrade the RNA to 19-21 bp duplexes (siRNAs), each with 2-nucleotide 3' overhangs ('"/>

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