Experimental introduction of RNA into cells can be used in certain biological systems to interfere with the function of an endogenous gene. Such effects have been proposed to result from a simple antisense mechanism that depends on hybridization between the injected RNA and endogenous messenger RNA transcripts. RNA interference has been used in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to manipulate gene expression. Here we investigate the requirements for structure and delivery of the interfering RNA. To our surprise, we found that double-stranded RNA was substantially more effective at producing interference than was either strand individually. After injection into adult animals, purified single strands had at most a modest effect, whereas double-stranded mixtures caused potent and specific interference. The effects of this interference were evident in both the injected animals and their progeny. Only a few molecules of injected double-stranded RNA were required per affected cell, arguing against stochiometric interference with endogenous mRNA and suggesting that there could be a catalytic or amplification component in the interference process.
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