Common seed analysis to identify off-target effects in siRNA screens.

Paradigms and Technologies
Methods Development


Genome-scale small interfering RNA (siRNA) screens have become an increasingly popular approach to new target identification and pathway elucidation. However, the large data sets generated from siRNA screens have demonstrated high false-positive rates and the requirement for extensive experimental triage to distinguish true hits. A number of groups have independently reported the presence of siRNAs with identical seed sequences among their top screening hits. Based on these observations, we have developed a comprehensive technique for detecting and visualizing seed-based off-target effects in siRNA screening data. This is accomplished by analyzing the behavior of siRNAs that share identical seed sequences, which we refer to as common seed analysis (CSA). By applying these techniques to primary screening data of the Wnt pathway, we identify 158 distinct seed sequences that have a statistically significant effect on the assay. The promiscuous seed sequences identified in this manner can then be discounted in the analysis of follow-up experiments using single siRNAs. The ability to detect off-target effects when sufficient numbers of siRNAs share a common seed has significant implications for the design of siRNA screening experiments, data analysis, hit selection, and library design.


Marine, Shane; Bahl, Amit; Ferrer-Alegre, Marc; Buehler, Eugen;


  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Library
  • Genomics/ methods
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays/ methods
  • Humans
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway/ genetics

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