RNA interference is a conserved pathway common to plants and mammals, where double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) suppress expression of genes with complementary sequences [1–2]. Long dsRNAs are degraded by the endoribonuclease Dicer into small effector molecules called siRNAs (small interfering RNAs). siRNAs are approximately 21 bases long with a central 19 bp duplex and 2‑base 3′‑overhangs. In mammals, Dicer processing occurs as a complex with the RNA-binding protein TRBP. The nascent siRNA associates with Dicer, TRBP, and Argonaut (Ago2) to form the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), which mediates gene silencing (Figure 1) . Once in RISC, one strand of the siRNA (the passenger strand) is degraded or discarded, while the other strand (the guide strand) remains to direct sequence specificity of the silencing complex. The Ago2 component of RISC is a ribonuclease that cleaves a target RNA under direction of the guide strand.
Although long dsRNAs (several hundred bp) are commonly employed to trigger RNAi in C. elegans or D. melanogaster, these molecules also activate the innate immune system and trigger interferon (IFN) responses in higher organisms. RNAi can be performed in mammalian cells using short RNAs, which generally do not induce IFN responses. Historically, siRNAs have been synthesized as 21mers that bypass the need for Dicer processing by directly mimic the products that are produced by Dicer in vivo.
However, it is now thought that, in addition to being a nuclease, Dicer is also required to introduce the siRNA into RISC and is involved in RISC assembly (Figure 2) [4–6]. IDT DsiRNAs are chemically synthesized 27mer RNA duplexes that are optimized for Dicer processing and show increased potency when compared with 21mer siRNAs [7–8]. Dicer-substrate RNAi methods take advantage of the link between Dicer and RISC loading that occurs when RNAs are processed by Dicer.