A Structural Interpretation of the Effect of GC-Content on Efficiency of RNA Interference
© 2009 Chan et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
BACKGROUND: RNA interference (RNAi) mediated by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) has become a powerful technique for eukaryotic gene knockdown. siRNA GC-content negatively correlates with RNAi efficiency, and it is of interest to have a convincing mechanistic interpretation of this observation. We here examine this issue by considering the secondary structures for both the target messenger RNA (mRNA) and the siRNA guide strand. RESULTS: By analyzing a unique homogeneous data set of 101 shRNAs targeted to 100 endogenous human genes, we find that: 1) target site accessibility is more important than GC-content for efficient RNAi; 2) there is an appreciable negative correlation between GC-content and RNAi activity; 3) for the predicted structure of the siRNA guide strand, there is a lack of correlation between RNAi activity and either the stability or the number of free dangling nucleotides at an end of the structure; 4) there is a high correlation between target site accessibility and GC-content. For a set of representative structural RNAs, the GC content of 62.6% for paired bases is significantly higher than the GC content of 38.7% for unpaired bases. Thus, for a structured RNA, a region with higher GC content is likely to have more stable secondary structure. Furthermore, by partial correlation analysis, the correlation for GC-content is almost completely diminished, when the effect of target accessibility is controlled. CONCLUSION: These findings provide a target-structure-based interpretation and mechanistic insight for the effect of GC-content on RNAi efficiency.