Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are the mediators of mRNA degradation in the process of RNA interference (RNAi). Here, we describe a human biochemical system that recapitulates siRNA-mediated target RNA degradation. By using affinity-tagged siRNAs, we demonstrate that a single-stranded siRNA resides in the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) together with eIF2C1 and/or eIF2C2 (human GERp95) Argonaute proteins. RISC is rapidly formed in HeLa cell cytoplasmic extract supplemented with 21 nt siRNA duplexes, but also by adding single-stranded antisense RNAs, which range in size between 19 and 29 nucleotides. Single-stranded antisense siRNAs are also effectively silencing genes in HeLa cells, especially when 5'-phosphorylated, and expand the repertoire of RNA reagents suitable for gene targeting.