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RNA Interference and Gene Silencing: History and Overview

dent RNA polymerases (RdRPs). At first glance, it might be assumed that this is proof that an RdRP activity is required for RNAi. Certainly the existence of an RdRP might explain the remarkable efficiency of dsRNA-induced silencing if it amplifed either the dsRNA prior to cleavage or the siRNAs directly. But mutants of these genes have varying phenotypes, which makes the role of RdRP in RNAi difficult to discern (1, 3, 17, 18).

In C. elegans ego-1 mutants ("ego" stands for "enhancer of glp-1"), RNAi functions normally in somatic cells, but is defective in germline cells where ego-1 is primarily expressed. In Arabidopsis SDE-1/SGS-2 mutants ("SGS" stands for suppressor of gene silencing), siRNAs are produced when dsRNA is introduced via an endogenously replicating RNA virus, but not when introduced by a transgene. It has been proposed that perhaps the viral RdRP is substituting for the Arabidopsis enzyme in these mutants (1, 3, 17, 18). Although no homolog of an RdRP has been found in flies or humans, an RdRP activity has recently been reported in Drosophila embryo lysates (30). One model of amplification, termed the "random degradative PCR" model, suggests that an RdRP uses the guide strand of an siRNA as a primer for the target mRNA, generating a dsRNA substrate for Dicer and thus more siRNAs (27, 30). Evidence supporting this model has been found i
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