DNAzymes are catalytic DNA which bind to target RNA by complementary sequence arms on a Watson- Crick basis and cleave RNA at specific sites. Potential therapeutic applications require DNAzymes that can efficiently cleave their target. Here we investigate factors affecting DNAzyme cleavage efficacy against the muscle acetylcholine receptor (AChR) -subunit. The 10-23 DNAzymes cleave at Y-R nucleotide motifs, where R is A or G, and Y is U or C. Targeting a series of sites within different regions of the full-coding length cRNA under simulated physiological conditions found that the most efficient motifs for cleavage were in the hierarchy: GU D AU > GC >>> AC. This order is consistent with the kinetic analysis of short synthetic RNA substrates that have the same binding arms but different cleavage sites. DNAzymes with longer symmetric binding arms were more efficient than those with shorter arms, while asymmetric DNAzymes with a longer arm I were also more efficient, suggesting a dominant role for arm I in determining cleavage activity. Modification of one DNAzyme by inverted thymidine (iT) or locked nucleic acids (LNA) showed the LNAmodified DNAzyme gave efficient silencing of AChR expression in HEK 293 cells. Our data demonstrate the usefulness of screening in vitro for an efficient DNAzyme prior to cellular applications.