RNA interference (RNAi) is well known as a mechanism for controlling mammalian mRNA translation in the cytoplasm, but what would be the consequences if it also functions in cell nuclei? Although RNAi has also been found in nuclei of plants, yeast, and other organisms, there has been relatively little progress towards understanding the potential involvement of mammalian RNAi factors in nuclear processes including transcription and splicing. This review summarizes evidence for mammalian RNAi factors in cell nuclei and mechanisms that might contribute to the control of gene expression. When RNAi factors bind small RNAs, they form ribonucleoprotein complexes that can be selective for target sequences within different classes of nuclear RNA substrates. The versatility of nuclear RNAi may supply a previously underappreciated layer of regulation to transcription, splicing, and other nuclear processes.
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