siRNA vs. shRNA: similarities and differences

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2009 Jul 25;61(9):746-59. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2009.04.004. Epub 2009 Apr 20.


RNA interference (RNAi) is a natural process through which expression of a targeted gene can be knocked down with high specificity and selectivity. Using available technology and bioinformatics investigators will soon be able to identify relevant bio molecular tumor network hubs as potential key targets for knockdown approaches. Methods of mediating the RNAi effect involve small interfering RNA (siRNA), short hairpin RNA (shRNA) and bi-functional shRNA. The simplicity of siRNA manufacturing and transient nature of the effect per dose are optimally suited for certain medical disorders (i.e. viral injections). However, using the endogenous processing machinery, optimized shRNA constructs allow for high potency and sustainable effects using low copy numbers resulting in less off-target effects, particularly if embedded in a miRNA scaffold. Bi-functional design may further enhance potency and safety of RNAi-based therapeutics. Remaining challenges include tumor selective delivery vehicles and more complete evaluation of the scope and scale of off-target effects. This review will compare siRNA, shRNA and bi-functional shRNA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*


  • RNA, Small Interfering