RNA interference (RNAi) is a biological process in which RNA molecules inhibit gene expression or translation, by neutralizing targeted mRNA molecules. Historically, RNAi was known by other names, including co-suppression, post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS), and quelling.
RNAi is now known as precise, efficient, stable and better than antisense technology for gene suppression. However, antisense RNA produced intracellularly by an expression vector may be developed and find utility as novel therapeutic agents.
Two types of small ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules – microRNA (miRNA) and small interfering RNA (siRNA) – are central to RNA interference. RNAs are the direct products of genes, and these small RNAs can direct enzyme complexes to degrade messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules and thus decrease their activity by preventing translation, via post-transcriptional gene silencing. Moreover, transcription can be inhibited via the pre-transcriptional silencing mechanism of RNA interference, through which an enzyme complex catalyzes DNA methylation at genomic positions complementary to complexed siRNA or miRNA. RNA interference has an important role in defending cells against parasitic nucleotide sequences – viruses and transposons. It also influences development.
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