Gene expression silencing with ‘specific’ small interfering RNA goes beyond specificity – a study of key parameters to take into account in the onset of small interfering RNA off-target effects

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RNA-mediated gene silencing (RNA interference) is a powerful way to knock down gene expression and has revolutionized the fields of cellular and molecular biology. Indeed, the transfection of cultured cells with small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) is currently considered to be the best and easiest approach to loss-of-function experiments. However, several recent studies underscore the off-target and potential cytotoxic effects of siRNAs, which can lead to the silencing of unintended mRNAs. In this study, we used a low-density microarray to assess gene expression modifications in response to five different siRNAs in various cell types and transfection conditions. We found major differences in off-target signature according to: (a) siRNA sequence; (b) cell type; (c) duration of transfection; and (d) post-transfection time before analysis. These results contribute to a better understanding of important parameters that could impact on siRNA side effects in knockdown experiments.

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