BACKGROUND: We previously described the inhibition of HIV-1 replication by a 54-mer hairpin-loop structured oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) A, which binds the polypurine tract (PPT) on HIV-1 RNA. ODN A was shown to lead to reduced viral RNA in virions or early during infection. METHODS AND RESULTS: Here we demonstrated that ODN A was able to cause hydrolysis of viral RNA not only by retroviral RT-associated RNase H but also cellular RNase H1 and RNase H2 in vitro. Furthermore, ODN A reduced gene expression in a dose-dependent manner in a cell-based reporter assay where a PPT sequence was inserted in the 5 untranslated region of the reporter gene. The efficacy of ODN A was higher than that of its siRNA and antisense counterparts. By knocking down cellular RNases H, we showed that RNase H1 contributed to the gene silencing by ODN A but the possibility of a partial contribution of RNase H-independent mechanisms could not be ruled out. GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE: Our findings highlight the potential application of hairpin-loop structured ODNs for reduction of gene expression in mammalian cells and underscore the possibility of using ODN A to trigger the hydrolysis of HIV RNA in infected cells by cellular RNases H.