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How does RNA interference function in gene silencing?

RNA interference silences genes by degrading mRNA molecules, preventing protein synthesis.

RNA interference (RNAi) is a natural process that regulates gene expression by silencing specific genes. It involves the use of small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules that bind to complementary mRNA molecules, leading to their degradation. This prevents the mRNA from being translated into protein, effectively silencing the gene.

The process of RNAi begins with the production of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecules, which are then processed by an enzyme called Dicer into siRNA molecules. These siRNA molecules are then incorporated into a protein complex called the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), which guides them to the complementary mRNA molecules.

Once the siRNA molecule binds to the mRNA, the RISC complex cleaves the mRNA molecule, leading to its degradation. This prevents the mRNA from being translated into protein, effectively silencing the gene. The process of RNAi is highly specific, as each siRNA molecule is designed to target a specific mRNA molecule.

RNAi has many applications in research and medicine, as it allows scientists to selectively silence specific genes and study their function. It is also being developed as a therapeutic approach for treating diseases caused by overactive or mutated genes. However, there are also concerns about the potential off-target effects of RNAi, which could lead to unintended gene silencing and adverse effects.

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