We have investigated the role of trigger RNA amplification during RNA interference (RNAi) in Caenorhabditis elegans. Analysis of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) produced during RNAi in C. elegans revealed a substantial fraction that cannot derive directly from input dsRNA. Instead, a population of siRNAs (termed secondary siRNAs) appeared to derive from the action of a cellular RNA-directed RNA polymerase (RdRP) on mRNAs that are being targeted by the RNAi mechanism. The distribution of secondary siRNAs exhibited a distinct polarity (5'-->3' on the antisense strand), suggesting a cyclic amplification process in which RdRP is primed by existing siRNAs. This amplification mechanism substantially augments the potency of RNAi-based surveillance, while ensuring that the RNAi machinery will focus on expressed mRNAs.