Noise amidst the silence: off-target effects of siRNAs?

Trends Genet. 2004 Nov;20(11):521-4. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2004.08.006.


RNA interference (RNAi), mediated by short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), is widely used to silence gene expression and to define gene function in mammalian cells. Initially, this gene silencing via transcript degradation was believed to be exquisitely specific, requiring near-identity between the siRNA and the target mRNA. However, several recent reports have suggested that non-specific effects can be induced by siRNAs, both at the level of mRNA and protein. These findings suggest that siRNAs can regulate the expression of unintended targets, and argue for further experiments on the mechanism and extent of off-target gene regulation(s). In the meantime, caution is warranted in interpreting gene function and phenotypes resulting from RNAi experiments.

MeSH terms

  • Interferons / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis / physiology
  • RNA Interference / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Interferons