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This article is part of the supplement: The 2008 International Conference on Bioinformatics & Computational Biology (BIOCOMP'08)

Open Access Research

Energy profile and secondary structure impact shRNA efficacy

Hong Zhou1 and Xiao Zeng2

Author Affiliations

1 Saint Joseph College, 1678 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117, USA

2 SABiosciences Corporation, 6951 Executive Way, Frederick, MD 21703, USA

BMC Genomics 2009, 10(Suppl 1):S9  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-S1-S9

Published: 7 July 2009

Abstract

Background

RNA interference (RNAi) is a cellular mechanism in which a short/small double stranded RNA induces the degradation of its sequence specific target mRNA, leading to specific gene silencing. Since its discovery, RNAi has become a powerful biological technique for gene function studies and drug discovery. The very first requirement of applying RNAi is to design functional small interfering RNA (siRNA) that can uniquely induce the degradation of the targeted mRNA. It has been shown that many functional synthetic siRNAs share some common characteristics, such as GC content limitation and free energy preferences at both terminals, etc.

Results

Our three-phase algorithm was developed to design siRNA on a whole-genome scale based on those identified characteristics of functional siRNA. When this algorithm was applied to design short hairpin RNA (shRNA), the validated success rate of shRNAs was over 70%, which was almost double the rate reported for TRC library. This indicates that the designs of siRNA and shRNA may share the same concerns. Further analysis of the shRNA dataset of 444 designs reveals that the high free energy states of the two terminals have the largest positive impact on the shRNA efficacy. Enforcing these energy characteristics of both terminals can further improve the shRNA design success rate to 83.1%. We also found that functional shRNAs have less probability for their 3' terminals to be involved in mRNA secondary structure formation.

Conclusion

Functional shRNAs prefer high free energy states at both terminals. High free energy states of the two terminals were found to be the largest positive impact factor on shRNA efficacy. In addition, the accessibility of the 3' terminal is another key factor to shRNA efficacy.