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A rapid and sensitive assay for quantification of siRNA efficiency and specificity


RNA Interference has rapidly emerged as an efficient procedure for knocking down gene expression in model systems. However, cross-reactivity, whereby multiple genes may be simultaneously targeted by a single short interfering RNA (siRNA), can potentially jeopardize correct interpretation of gene function. As such, it is essential to test the specificity of a siRNA prior to a full phenotypic analysis. To this end, we have adapted a reporter-based assay harnessing the sensitivity of luciferase activity to provide a quantitative readout of relative RNAi efficacy and specificity. We have tested different siRNAs directed against Thymosin β4 (Tβ4); determined their effectiveness at silencing Tβ4 and have both excluded off-target silencing of the Tβ4 homologue Thymosin β10 (Tβ10) and demonstrated partial knockdown of Tβ10 despite significant (12/23; 52%) sequence mismatch. This assay system is applicable to any RNAi study where there is a risk of targeting homologous genes and to the monitoring of off-target effects at the genome level following microarray expression profiling.


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Correspondence to Paul Richard Riley.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( ), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Smart, N., Scambler, P.J. & Riley, P.R. A rapid and sensitive assay for quantification of siRNA efficiency and specificity. Biol. Proced. Online 7, 1–7 (2005).

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Indexing terms

  • Thymosin beta(4)
  • Thymosin beta(10)