Strand antagonism in RNAi: an explanation of differences in potency between intracellularly expressed siRNA and shRNA.

Research paper by Xin X Jin, Tingting T Sun, Chuanke C Zhao, Yongxiang Y Zheng, Yufan Y Zhang, Weijing W Cai, Qiuchen Q He, Kaz K Taira, Lihe L Zhang, Demin D Zhou

Indexed on: 01 Nov '11Published on: 01 Nov '11Published in: Nucleic acids research


Strategies to regulate gene function frequently use small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that can be made from their shRNA precursors via Dicer. However, when the duplex components of these siRNA effectors are expressed from their respective coding genes, the RNA interference (RNAi) activity is much reduced. Here, we explored the mechanisms of action of shRNA and siRNA and found the expressed siRNA, in contrast to short hairpin RNA (shRNA), exhibits strong strand antagonism, with the sense RNA negatively and unexpectedly regulating RNAi. Therefore, we altered the relative levels of strands of siRNA duplexes during their expression, increasing the level of the antisense component, reducing the level of the sense component, or both and, in this way we were able to enhance the potency of the siRNA. Such vector-delivered siRNA attacked its target effectively. These findings provide new insight into RNAi and, in particular, they demonstrate that strand antagonism is responsible for making siRNA far less potent than shRNA.