Illuminating the silence: understanding the structure and function of small RNAs

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2007 Jan;8(1):23-36. doi: 10.1038/nrm2085.


RNA interference (RNAi) is triggered by double-stranded RNA helices that have been introduced exogenously into cells as small interfering (si)RNAs or that have been produced endogenously from small non-coding RNAs known as microRNAs (miRNAs). RNAi has become a standard experimental tool and its therapeutic potential is being aggressively harnessed. Understanding the structure and function of small RNAs, such as siRNAs and miRNAs, that trigger RNAi has shed light on the RNAi machinery. In particular, it has highlighted the assembly and function of the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), and has provided guidelines to efficiently silence genes for biological research and therapeutic applications of RNAi.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / chemistry*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • RNA Caps / metabolism
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / chemistry*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism*
  • RNA-Induced Silencing Complex / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA Caps
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA-Induced Silencing Complex