Small noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) have been shown to guide epigenetic silencing complexes to target loci in human cells. When targeted to gene promoters, these small RNAs can lead to long-term stable epigenetic silencing of gene transcription. To date, small RNAs have been shown to modulate transcriptional gene silencing (TGS) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) as well as several other disease-related genes, but it has remained unknown as to what extent particular chemistries can be used to generate single-stranded backbone-modified oligonucleotides that are amenable to this form of gene targeting and regulation. Here, we present data indicating that specific combinations of backbone modifications can be used to generate single-stranded antisense oligonucleotides that can functionally direct TGS of HIV-1 in a manner that is however, independent of epigenetic changes at the target loci. Furthermore, this functionality appears contingent on the absence of a 5' phosphate in the oligonucleotide. These data suggest that chemically modified oligonucleotide based approaches could be implemented as a means to regulate gene transcription in an epigenetically independent manner.