RNA interference (RNAi) is the process by which double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) directs sequence-specific degradation of messenger RNA in animal and plant cells. In mammalian cells, RNAi can be triggered by 21-nucleotide duplexes of small interfering RNA (siRNA). Here we describe inhibition of early and late steps of HIV-1 replication in human cell lines and primary lymphocytes by siRNAs targeted to various regions of the HIV-1 genome. We demonstrate that synthetic siRNA duplexes or plasmid-derived siRNAs inhibit HIV-1 infection by specifically degrading genomic HIV-1 RNA, thereby preventing formation of viral complementary-DNA intermediates. These results demonstrate the utility of RNAi for modulating the HIV replication cycle and provide evidence that genomic HIV-1 RNA, as it exists within a nucleoprotein reverse-transcription complex, is amenable to siRNA-mediated degradation.
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