Short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are 21-23 nt long double-stranded oligoribonucleotides which in mammalian cells exhibit a potency for sequence-specific gene silencing via an RNA interference (RNAi) pathway. It has been already proven that exogenous, chemically synthesized siRNA molecules are effective inhibitors of gene expression and are widely applied for analysis of protein function and proteomics-based target identification. Moreover, since their discovery siRNA molecules have been implemented as potential candidates for therapeutic applications. Variously modified siRNA molecules containing sugar modifications (2-OMe, -F, -O-allyl, -amino, orthoesters and LNA analogues), internucleotide phospodiester bond modifications (phosphorothioates, boranophosphates), base modifications (s2U) as well as 3-terminal cholesterol-conjugated constructs were investigated as potential candidates for effective inhibition of gene expression. This chapter reviews an impact of chemical and structural modifications of siRNA molecules on their serum and thermal stability, cellular and in vivo activity, cellular uptake, biodistribution and cytotoxicity. Functional analysis of chemically modified siRNA molecules allows for better understanding of the mechanism of the RNA interference process as well as demonstrates immense efforts in optimizing in vivo potency of siRNA molecules for RNAi-based drug design.
Keywords: RNA interference, small interfering RNA, gene silencing, siRNA, modified siRNA, chemical modification, RNA structure
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