Gene silencing by double-stranded RNA

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2001 Apr;13(2):244-8. doi: 10.1016/s0955-0674(00)00204-0.


Eukaryotes silence gene expression in the presence of double-stranded RNA homologous to the silenced gene. Silencing occurs by the targeted degradation of mRNA. Biochemical reactions that recapitulate this phenomenon generate RNA fragments of 21--23 nucleotides from the double-stranded RNA. These stably associate with an RNA endonuclease and probably serve as a discriminator to select mRNAs. Once selected, mRNAs are cleaved at sites 21--23 nucleotides apart. This mechanism, termed RNAi, has functional links to viral defense and silencing phenomena, such as cosuppression. It also functions to repress the hopping of transposable elements.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / drug effects
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Drosophila / drug effects
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Plants / drug effects
  • Plants / genetics
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / genetics*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / pharmacology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics


  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • RNA, Messenger