RNA interference (RNAi) has great potential as a tool for studying gene function in mammals. However, the specificity and magnitude of the in vivo response to RNAi remains to be fully characterized. A molecular and phenotypic comparison of a genetic knockout mouse and the corresponding knockdown version would help clarify the utility of the RNAi approach. Here, we used hydrodynamic delivery of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to knockdown peroxisome proliferator activated receptor alpha (Ppara), a gene that is central to the regulation of fatty acid metabolism. We found that Ppara knockdown in the liver results in a transcript profile and metabolic phenotype that is comparable to those of Ppara-/- mice. Combining the profiles from mice treated with the PPARalpha agonist fenofibrate, we confirmed the specificity of the RNAi response and identified candidate genes proximal to PPARalpha regulation. Ppara knockdown animals developed hypoglycemia and hypertriglyceridemia, phenotypes observed in Ppara-/- mice. In contrast to Ppara-/- mice, fasting was not required to uncover these phenotypes. Together, these data validate the utility of the RNAi approach and suggest that siRNA can be used as a complement to classical knockout technology in gene function studies.
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