Abstract The antisense approach is conceptually simple and elegant; to design an inhibitor of a specific mRNA, one needs only to know the sequence of the targeted mRNA and an appropriately modified complementary oligonucleotide. Of the many analogs of oligodeoxynucleotides explored as antisense agents, phosphorothioate analogs have been studied the most extensively. The use of phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotides as antisense agents in various studies have shown promising results. However, they have also indicated that quite often, biological effects observed could be solely or partly non-specific in nature. It is becoming clear that not all phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotides of varying length and base composition are the same, and important consideration should be given to maintain antisense mechanisms while identifying effective antisense oligonucleotides. In this review, I have summarized the progress made in my laboratory in understanding the specificity and mechanism of actions of phosphorothioate oligonucleotides and the rationale for designing second-generation mixed-backbone oligonucleotides.