RNA Interference

RNA Interference Definition

“RNA interference is the process in which the gene expression is inhibited by RNA molecules by neutralizing the targeted mRNA molecules.”

What is RNA Interference?

RNA interference is an evolutionary conserved mechanism triggered by double-stranded RNA that uses the gene’s own DNA sequence to turn it off. This process is known as gene silencing.

It is a gene regulatory mechanism that limits the level of transcript in two ways:

  • Suppressing transcription (Transcriptional gene silencing)
  • Degrading the RNA produced (post-transcriptional gene silencing)

The process was discovered by two American scientists Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello in the cells of C.elegans. They introduced short segments of double-stranded RNA into the cells of C.elegans and inhibited the expression of certain genes.

Also Read: Gene Regulation

Mechanism of RNA Interference

The mechanism of RNA interference can be explained in the following steps:

  • Long double-stranded RNA is diced into small fragments with the help of an enzyme called dicer. These small fragments are known as siRNA or small interfering RNA.
  • The siRNAs are passed through the RNA induced silencing complex. The duplex unwinds and the RNA is activated. Such complexes promote RNA degradation and inhibit translation.
  • The siRNA bind to Argonaute protein and one of the strands from the double-stranded is removed. The remaining strand binds to the mRNA target sequences. The Argonaute protein either cleaves the mRNA or recruits other factors to regulate the target sequence.

RNA Interference Applications

RNA interference has the following applications:

Gene Knockdown

RNA interference is often used to study the functions of genes in cell culture and in model organisms. This mechanism is used to reduce the expression of the targeted gene.

Functional Genomics

This technique is used for gene mapping and annotation in plants. RNA interference has been used for the studies in bread wheat.

Applications in Medicine

With the invention of synthetically made small interfering RNA, it became possible to silence the specific gene sequences instead of silencing the entire gene. Since then, RNAi has been used to target specific gene sequences that can cause cancer. It can also be used to treat bacterial diseases, viruses, parasites, relieve pain and even modulate sleep.

Also Read: RNA World

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