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RNAi as a Tool for Mammalian Gene Analysis: Applications of siRNAs

David Brown (Senior Scientist, Ambion, Inc.)


The realization that RNA interference (RNAi) can be used as a general tool for mammalian gene function studies occurred with the seminal Elbashir et al. (1) publication describing the use of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) in mammalian cells in 2001. In less than two years, siRNAs have become the cornerstone of many research programs. This rapid uptake has resulted primarily from the ease of use of siRNAs and the strong need for a method to reduce the expression of individual genes in mammalian cells in order to establish a link between gene identity and gene function. Provided below are some of the more prominent applications for RNAi in mammalian systems and examples of these applications from the literature.


Testing Hypotheses of Gene Function
Array analysis and other methods for identifying differentially expressed genes have created an enormous database of genes and associated phenotypes. In many cases, scientists make predictions about gene function based on expression patterns in different samples. Other predictions of mammalian gene function are developed using homology searches with genes whose functions are known in model organisms like Drosophila, C. elegans, and S. cerevisiae. In many cases, testing the accuracy of these predictions can be accomplished using siRNAs. <
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