Because RNA interference (RNAi) can be applied to any gene, this technique has been widely used for studying gene functions. In addition, many researchers are attempting to use RNAi technology in RNAi-based therapies. However, several challenging and controversial issues have arisen during the widespread application of RNAi including target gene specificity, target cell specificity, and spatiotemporal control of gene silencing. To address these issues, several groups have utilized photochemistry to control the RNA release, both spatially and temporally.In this Account, we focus on recent studies using photocleavable protecting groups, photosensitizers, Hand gold nanoparticles for photoinduced RNAi. In 2005 the first report of photoinduced RNAi used a caged short interfering RNA (siRNA), an siRNA carrying a photocleavable protecting group. Caging groups block the bioactivities of target molecules, but allow for complete recovery of these functions via photoactivation. However, some RNAi activity can occur in these caged siRNAs, so it will be necessary to decrease this "leakage" and raise the RNAi activity restored after irradiation. This technique also uses UV light around 350 nm, which is cytotoxic, but in the near future we expect that it will be possible to use visible and near-infrared lightWe also examine the application of photochemical internalization (PCI) to RNAi technology, which involves a combination of photosensitizers and light. Instead of inducing RNAi using light, the strategy behind this method was to enhance RNAi using RNA carriers. Many wellknown RNA carriers deliver siRNAs into cells by endocytosis. The siRNAs are trapped in endocytic vesicles and have to be released into the cytoplasm in order to express their activity. To achieve the endosomal escape of siRNAs, PCI technology employed photosensitizers to generate light-dependent reactive oxygen species (ROS) that disrupted the endocytic vesicles. In most studies, RNAi-mediated knockdown of the target gene was detected even without PCI. Recently, a polymer capable of trapping the siRNA in endocytic vesicles controlled RNAi almost entirely by light. CLIP-RNAi uses photosensitizing carrier proteins that can be activated over a wide range of visible light wavelengths. With this method RNA carrier/siRNA complexes are completely trapped within endosomes, and RNAi is controlled strictly by light. Such precise, light-dependent control will open up new possibilities for cellular and molecular biology and therapy.Most recently, gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) conjugated to siRNA have provided temporal and spatial control of RNAi. The light-dependent melting of AuNPs accompanied by a shape transformation induces the release of thiolated siRNAs from AuNPs. In this method, the unique optical properties of the AuNP enable deep penetration of the excitation light into tissues at nearinfrared wavelengths.The development of photoinduced RNAi technology will lead to novel insights into gene functions and selective drug delivery, and many other scientific fields will continue to influence its progress.
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