Effect of target secondary structure on RNAi efficiency.
ABSTRACT: RNA interference (RNAi) mediated by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) has become a powerful tool for gene knockdown studies. However, the levels of knockdown vary greatly. Here, we examine the effect of target disruption energy, a novel measure of target accessibility, along with other parameters that may affect RNAi efficiency. Based on target secondary structures predicted by the Sfold program, the target disruption energy represents the free energy cost for local alteration of the target structure to allow target binding by the siRNA guide strand. In analyses of 100 siRNAs and 101 shRNAs targeted to 103 endogenous human genes, we find that the disruption energy is an important determinant of RNAi activity and the asymmetry of siRNA duplex asymmetry is important for facilitating the assembly of the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). We estimate that target accessibility and duplex asymmetry can improve the target knockdown level significantly by nearly 40% and 26%, respectively. In the RNAi pathway, RISC assembly precedes target binding by the siRNA guide strand. Thus, our findings suggest that duplex asymmetry has significant upstream effect on RISC assembly and target accessibility has strong downstream effect on target recognition. The results of the analyses suggest criteria for improving the design of siRNAs and shRNAs.
Project description:Prediction of efficient oligonucleotides for RNA interference presents a serious challenge, especially for the development of genome-wide RNAi libraries which encounter difficulties and limitations due to ambiguities in the results and the requirement for significant computational resources. Here we present a fast and practical algorithm for shRNA design based on the thermodynamic parameters. In order to identify shRNA and siRNA features universally associated with high silencing efficiency, we analyzed structure-activity relationships in thousands of individual RNAi experiments from publicly available databases (ftp://ftp.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pub/shabalin/siRNA/si_shRNA_selector/). Using this statistical analysis, we found free energy ranges for the terminal duplex asymmetry and for fully paired duplex stability, such that shRNAs or siRNAs falling in both ranges have a high probability of being efficient. When combined, these two parameters yield a approximately 72% success rate on shRNAs from the siRecords database, with the target RNA levels reduced to below 20% of the control. Two other parameters correlate well with silencing efficiency: the stability of target RNA and the antisense strand secondary structure. Both parameters also correlate with the short RNA duplex stability; as a consequence, adding these parameters to our prediction scheme did not substantially improve classification accuracy. To test the validity of our predictions, we designed 83 shRNAs with optimal terminal asymmetry, and experimentally verified that small shifts in duplex stability strongly affected silencing efficiency. We showed that shRNAs with short fully paired stems could be successfully selected by optimizing only two parameters: terminal duplex asymmetry and duplex stability of the hypothetical cleavage product, which also relates to the specificity of mRNA target recognition. Our approach performs at the level of the best currently utilized algorithms that take into account prediction of the secondary structure of the target and antisense RNAs, but at significantly lower computational costs. Based on this study, we created the si-shRNA Selector program that predicts both highly efficient shRNAs and functional siRNAs (ftp://ftp.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pub/shabalin/siRNA/si_shRNA_selector/).
Project description:Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) guide RNA-induced silencing complexes (RISC) to target mRNAs for sequence-specific silencing. A fundamental aspect of this highly coordinated process is a guide strand-specific loading of the siRNA duplex into the RISC for the accurate target recognition, which is currently dictated by certain duplex parameters such as thermodynamics. Here, we show that minor changes in the overhang structure have profound effects on the extent to which the individual strands of the siRNA duplex participate in RNAi activity. We demonstrate that the two strands of the siRNA are similarly eligible for assembly into RISC for the siRNAs with symmetric overhangs, whereas those with asymmetric RNA/deoxythymidine dinucleotide (dTdT) overhangs exhibit a distinct preference in favor of a strand with an RNA overhang that drives a mature RISC affinity to the desired target. We believe that this additional determinant provides a plausible and simple approach for improving the strand selection, thereby considerably increasing a specificity of target silencing.
Project description:The recognition of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) by the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) and its precursor, the RISC loading complex (RLC), is a key step in the RNA interference pathway that controls the subsequent sequence-specific mRNA degradation. In Drosophila, selection of the guide strand has been shown to be mediated by RLC protein R2D2, which senses the relative hybridization stability between the two ends of the siRNA. A protein with similar function has yet to be conclusively identified in humans. We show here that human TAR RNA binding protein (TRBP) alone can bind siRNAs in vitro and sense their asymmetry. We also show that TRBP can bind 21-nucleotide single-stranded RNAs, though with far lower affinity than for double-stranded siRNA, and that TRBP cross-links preferentially to the 3'-ends of the guide strands of siRNAs. This suggests that TRBP binding depends both on the sequences of the siRNA strands and on the relative hybridization stability of the ends of the duplex. Together, these results demonstrate the importance of the siRNA-TRBP interaction in the selection of the siRNA guide strand in RNAi.
Project description:RNA interference (RNAi) offers a powerful tool to specifically direct the degradation of complementary RNAs, and thus has great therapeutic potential for targeting diseases. Despite the reported preferences of RNAi, there is still a need for new techniques that will allow for a detailed mechanistic characterization of RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) assembly and activity to further improve the biocompatibility of modified siRNAs. In contrast to previous reports, we investigated the effects of 2'-O-methyl (2'OMe) modifications introduced at specific positions within the siRNA at the early and late stages of RISC assembly, as well as their influence on target recognition and cleavage directly in living cells. We found that six to 10 2'OMe nucleotides on the 3'-end inhibit passenger-strand release as well as target-RNA cleavage without changing the affinity, strand asymmetry, or target recognition. 2'OMe modifications introduced at the 5'-end reduced activated RISC stability, whereas incorporations at the cleavage site showed only minor effects on passenger-strand release when present on the passenger strand. Our new fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy assays resolve different steps and stages of RISC assembly and target recognition with heretofore unresolved detail in living cells, which is needed to develop therapeutic siRNAs with optimized in vivo properties.
Project description:Despite the great potential of RNAi, ectopic expression of shRNA or siRNAs holds the inherent risk of competition for critical RNAi components, thus altering the regulatory functions of some cellular microRNAs. In addition, specific siRNA sequences can potentially hinder incorporation of other siRNAs when used in a combinatorial approach. We show that both synthetic siRNAs and expressed shRNAs compete against each other and with the endogenous microRNAs for transport and for incorporation into the RNA induced silencing complex (RISC). The same siRNA sequences do not display competition when expressed from a microRNA backbone. We also show that TAR RNA binding protein (TRBP) is one of the sensors for selection and incorporation of the guide sequence of interfering RNAs. These findings reveal that combinatorial siRNA approaches can be problematic and have important implications for the methodology of expression and use of therapeutic interfering RNAs.
Project description:Understanding the interactions between small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), the key protein complex of RNA interference (RNAi), is of great importance to the development of siRNAs with improved biological and potentially therapeutic function. Although various chemically modified siRNAs have been reported, relatively few studies with modified nucleobases exist. Here we describe the synthesis and hybridization properties of siRNAs bearing size-expanded RNA (xRNA) nucleobases and their use as a novel and systematic set of steric probes in RNAi. xRNA nucleobases are expanded by 2.4 Å using benzo-homologation and retain canonical Watson-Crick base-pairing groups. Our data show that the modified siRNA duplexes display small changes in melting temperature (+1.4 to -5.0 °C); substitutions near the center are somewhat destabilizing to the RNA duplex, while substitutions near the ends are stabilizing. RNAi studies in a dual-reporter luciferase assay in HeLa cells revealed that xRNA nucleobases in the antisense strand reduce activity at some central positions near the seed region but are generally well tolerated near the ends. Most importantly, we observed that xRNA substitutions near the 3'-end increased activity over that of wild-type siRNAs. The data are analyzed in terms of site-dependent steric effects in RISC. Circular dichroism experiments show that single xRNA substitutions do not significantly distort the native A-form helical structure of the siRNA duplex, and serum stability studies demonstrated that xRNA substitutions protect siRNAs against nuclease degradation.
Project description:RNA interference defends against RNA viruses and retro-elements within an organism's genome. It is triggered by duplex siRNAs, of which one strand is selected to confer sequence-specificity to the RNA induced silencing complex (RISC). In Drosophila, Dicer-2 (Dcr-2) and the double-stranded RNA binding domain (dsRBD) protein R2D2 form the RISC loading complex (RLC) and select one strand of exogenous siRNAs according to the relative thermodynamic stability of base-pairing at either end. Through genome editing we demonstrate that Loqs-PD, the Drosophila homolog of human TAR RNA binding protein (TRBP) and a paralog of R2D2, forms an alternative RLC with Dcr-2 that is required for strand choice of endogenous siRNAs in S2 cells. Two canonical dsRBDs in Loqs-PD bind to siRNAs with enhanced affinity compared to miRNA/miRNA* duplexes. Structural analysis, NMR and biophysical experiments indicate that the Loqs-PD dsRBDs can slide along the RNA duplex to the ends of the siRNA. A moderate but notable binding preference for the thermodynamically more stable siRNA end by Loqs-PD alone is greatly amplified in complex with Dcr-2 to initiate strand discrimination by asymmetry sensing in the RLC.
Project description:RNA interference (RNAi) targeted towards viral mRNAs is widely used to block virus replication in mammalian cells. The specific antiviral RNAi response can be induced via transfection of synthetic small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or via intracellular expression of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs). For HIV-1, both approaches resulted in profound inhibition of virus replication. However, the therapeutic use of a single siRNA/shRNA appears limited due to the rapid emergence of RNAi-resistant escape viruses. These variants contain deletions or point mutations within the target sequence that abolish the antiviral effect. To avoid escape from RNAi, the virus should be simultaneously targeted with multiple shRNAs. Alternatively, long hairpin RNAs can be used from which multiple effective siRNAs may be produced. In this study, we constructed extended shRNAs (e-shRNAs) that encode two effective siRNAs against conserved HIV-1 sequences. Activity assays and RNA processing analyses indicate that the positioning of the two siRNAs within the hairpin stem is critical for the generation of two functional siRNAs. E-shRNAs that are efficiently processed into two effective siRNAs showed better inhibition of virus production than the poorly processed e-shRNAs, without inducing the interferon response. These results provide building principles for the design of multi-siRNA hairpin constructs.
Project description:Allele-specific gene silencing by RNA interference (RNAi) is therapeutically useful for specifically inhibiting the expression of disease-associated alleles without suppressing the expression of corresponding wild-type alleles. To realize such allele-specific RNAi (ASP-RNAi), the design and assessment of small interfering RNA (siRNA) duplexes conferring ASP-RNAi is vital; however, it is also difficult. In a previous study, we developed an assay system to assess ASP-RNAi with mutant and wild-type reporter alleles encoding the Photinus and Renilla luciferase genes. In line with experiments using the system, we realized that it is necessary and important to enhance allele discrimination between mutant and corresponding wild-type alleles. Here, we describe the improvement of ASP-RNAi against mutant alleles carrying single nucleotide variations by introducing base substitutions into siRNA sequences, where original variations are present in the central position. Artificially mismatched siRNAs or short-hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) against mutant alleles of the human Prion Protein (PRNP) gene, which appear to be associated with susceptibility to prion diseases, were examined using this assessment system. The data indicates that introduction of a one-base mismatch into the siRNAs and shRNAs was able to enhance discrimination between the mutant and wild-type alleles. Interestingly, the introduced mismatches that conferred marked improvement in ASP-RNAi, appeared to be largely present in the guide siRNA elements, corresponding to the 'seed region' of microRNAs. Due to the essential role of the 'seed region' of microRNAs in their association with target RNAs, it is conceivable that disruption of the base-pairing interactions in the corresponding seed region, as well as the central position (involved in cleavage of target RNAs), of guide siRNA elements could influence allele discrimination. In addition, we also suggest that nucleotide mismatches at the 3'-ends of sense-strand siRNA elements, which possibly increase the assembly of antisense-strand (guide) siRNAs into RNA-induced silencing complexes (RISCs), may enhance ASP-RNAi in the case of inert siRNA duplexes. Therefore, the data presented here suggest that structural modification of functional portions of an siRNA duplex by base substitution could greatly influence allele discrimination and gene silencing, thereby contributing to enhancement of ASP-RNAi.
Project description:The catalytic engine of RNA interference (RNAi) is the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), wherein the endoribonuclease Argonaute and single-stranded small interfering RNA (siRNA) direct target mRNA cleavage. We reconstituted long double-stranded RNA- and duplex siRNA-initiated RISC activities with the use of recombinant Drosophila Dicer-2, R2D2, and Ago2 proteins. We used this core reconstitution system to purify an RNAi regulator that we term C3PO (component 3 promoter of RISC), a complex of Translin and Trax. C3PO is a Mg2+-dependent endoribonuclease that promotes RISC activation by removing siRNA passenger strand cleavage products. These studies establish an in vitro RNAi reconstitution system and identify C3PO as a key activator of the core RNAi machinery.