RNAi technology has proven to be a powerful tool to study gene function by silencing transcription. This has allowed researchers to identify the precise role a gene plays in a specific biologic process and is being applied extensively in functional genomics, signal transduction, and drug target discovery. A review of applying RNAi high throughput screening to drug target discovery was published by Gao, S. et. Al. In their paper, “Applications of RNA Interference High-Throughput Screening Technology in Cancer Biology and Virology”, the authors review how high throughput RNAi screening was applied to further our understanding of cancer biology and virology.
Current vaccines target virus proteins or genomes. But due to the high mutation rates of viral genomes, it’s very easy for a virus to develop resistance against a vaccine. Since viruses rely on host cells to propagate, understanding the host factors in viral infection may be key to discovering more effective vaccines. In their paper, the author’s highlight several applications where genome wide RNAi screens successfully identified host factors required for replication for Drosophilia C, HIV, influenza and vaccinia viruses.
Today, performing high throughput genome-wide RNAi screens as referenced in the paper requires a tremendous investment in expertise, time, automation hardware, reagents, plates and other consumables. Two publications, Visual Genome-Wide RNAi Screening to Identify Host Factors Required for Typanosoma cruzi Infection and Automated Genome-Wide Visual Profiling of Cellular Proteins Involved in HIV Infection highlight the application of high throughput cellular microarray RNAi screens. The advantages of using cellular microarray technology over traditional screening methodology are, lower costs, higher throughput and better data quality. Persomics has developed a microarray technology that miniaturizes and increases the scale of RNAi screening. Using their technology, siRNA is printed as addressable spots on ImagineArray™ Plates. With the potential to print up to 3200 spots per array, specific libraries will be available pre-printed for use off-the-shelf; putting high throughput functional genomics screening within the reach of any lab with access to a fluorescent microscope.