An efficient mechanism for the sequence-specific inhibition of gene expression is RNA interference. In this process, double-stranded RNA molecules induce cleavage of a selected target RNA (see picture). This technique has in recent years developed into a standard method of molecular biology. Successful applications in animal models have already led to the initiation of RNAi-based clinical trials as a new therapeutic option.
Only ten years ago Andrew Fire and Craig Mello were able to show that double-stranded RNA molecules could inhibit the expression of homologous genes in eukaryotes. This process, termed RNA interference, has developed into a standard method of molecular biology. This Review provides an overview of the molecular processes involved, with a particular focus on the posttranscriptional inhibition of gene expression in mammalian cells, the possible applications in research, and the results of the first clinical studies.