In posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS), "quelling," and RNA interference (RNAi), 21-25 nucleotide RNA fragments are produced from the initiating dsRNA. These short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) mediate RNAi by an unknown mechanism. Here, we show that GFP and Pp-Luc siRNAs, isolated from a protein complex in Drosophila embryo extract, target mRNA degradation in vitro. Most importantly, these siRNAs, as well as a synthetic 21-nucleotide duplex GFP siRNA, serve as primers to transform the target mRNA into dsRNA. The nascent dsRNA is degraded to eliminate the incorporated target mRNA while generating new siRNAs in a cycle of dsRNA synthesis and degradation. Evidence is presented that mRNA-dependent siRNA incorporation to form dsRNA is carried out by an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase activity (RdRP).
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