[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Development of artificial nucleic acids for therapeutic applications warrants that the oligomers be endowed with high specificity, enzymatic stability and with no/reduced off-target effects. The balance between strength of the duplex with target RNA and enzyme stability is therefore the key factor for the designed modification. The chiral serinol derivative combines the attributes of amino- and methoxy- substitution when at 2'- position and at 3'- and 5'- ends, effectively balancing the duplex stability and resistance to hydrolytic enzymes. The biological effect seen is the remarkable improvement in splice correction by the steric blocking antisense oligonucleotide with just 4 modified units, i.e ~20% substitution with R-aminomethoxypropyloxy (R-AMP)-thymidine within the 2ꞌ-OMe 18mer sequence.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A novel method for the parallel synthesis of peptide-biocargo conjugates was developed that utilizes affinity purification for fast isolation of the conjugates in order to avoid time consuming HPLC purification. The methodology was applied to create two libraries of cell-penetrating peptide (CPP)-PNA705 conjugates from parallel-synthesized peptide libraries. The conjugates were tested for their ability to induce splicing redirection in HeLa pLuc705 cells. The results demonstrate how the novel methodology can be applied for screening purposes in order to find suitable CPP-biocargo combinations and further optimization of CPPs.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The chemistry of the oligonucleotide backbone is crucial to obtaining high activity in vivo in exon skipping applications. Apart from the ability to bind strongly and sequence-specifically to pre-mRNA targets, the type of backbone also influences cell delivery, in vivo pharmacology, bio-distribution, toxicology, and ultimately the therapeutic use in humans. Reviewed here are classes of oligonucleotide commonly used for exon skipping applications, namely negatively charged backbones typified by RNA analogues having 2'-O-substitution and a phosphorothioate linkage and charge-neutral backbones such as PNA and PMO. Also discussed are peptide conjugates of PNA and PMO that enhance cellular and in vivo delivery and their potential for drug development. Finally, the prospects for development of other analogue types in exon skipping applications are outlined.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Antisense oligonucleotides (AOs) are currently the most promising therapeutic intervention for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). AOs modulate dystrophin pre-mRNA splicing, thereby specifically restoring the dystrophin reading frame and generating a truncated but semifunctional dystrophin protein. Challenges in the development of this approach are the relatively poor systemic AO delivery and inefficient dystrophin correction in affected non-skeletal muscle tissues, including the heart. We have previously reported impressive heart activity including high-splicing efficiency and dystrophin restoration following a single administration of an arginine-rich cell-penetrating peptide (CPPs) conjugated to a phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligonucleotide (PMO): Pip5e-PMO. However, the mechanisms underlying this activity are poorly understood. Here, we report studies involving single dose administration (12.5 mg/kg) of derivatives of Pip5e-PMO, consecutively assigned as Pip6-PMOs. These peptide-PMOs comprise alterations to the central hydrophobic core of the Pip5e peptide and illustrate that certain changes to the peptide sequence improves its activity; however, partial deletions within the hydrophobic core abolish its efficiency. Our data indicate that the hydrophobic core of the Pip sequences is critical for PMO delivery to the heart and that specific modifications to this region can enhance activity further. The results have implications for therapeutic PMO development for DMD.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Induced splice modulation of pre-mRNAs shows promise to correct aberrant disease transcripts and restore functional protein and thus has therapeutic potential. Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) results from mutations that disrupt the DMD gene open reading frame causing an absence of dystrophin protein. Antisense oligonucleotide (AO)-mediated exon skipping has been shown to restore functional dystrophin in mdx mice and DMD patients treated intramuscularly in two recent phase 1 clinical trials. Critical to the therapeutic success of AO-based treatment will be the ability to deliver AOs systemically to all affected tissues including the heart. Here, we report identification of a series of transduction peptides (Pip5) as AO conjugates for enhanced systemic and particularly cardiac delivery. One of the lead peptide-AO conjugates, Pip5e-AO, showed highly efficient exon skipping and dystrophin production in mdx mice with complete correction of the aberrant DMD transcript in heart, leading to >50% of the normal level of dystrophin in heart. Mechanistic studies indicated that the enhanced activity of Pip5e-phosphorodiamidate morpholino (PMO) is partly explained by more efficient nuclear delivery. Pip5 series derivatives therefore have significant potential for advancing the development of exon skipping therapies for DMD and may have application for enhanced cardiac delivery of other biotherapeutics.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Numerous human genetic diseases are caused by mutations that give rise to aberrant alternative splicing. Recently, several of these debilitating disorders have been shown to be amenable for splice-correcting oligonucleotides (SCOs) that modify splicing patterns and restore the phenotype in experimental models. However, translational approaches are required to transform SCOs into usable drug products. In this study, we present a new cell-penetrating peptide, PepFect14 (PF14), which efficiently delivers SCOs to different cell models including HeLa pLuc705 and mdx mouse myotubes; a cell culture model of Duchenne's muscular dystrophy (DMD). Non-covalent PF14-SCO nanocomplexes induce splice-correction at rates higher than the commercially available lipid-based vector Lipofectamine 2000 (LF2000) and remain active in the presence of serum. Furthermore, we demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating this delivery system into solid formulations that could be suitable for several therapeutic applications. Solid dispersion technique is utilized and the formed solid formulations are as active as the freshly prepared nanocomplexes in solution even when stored at an elevated temperatures for several weeks. In contrast, LF2000 drastically loses activity after being subjected to same procedure. This shows that using PF14 is a very promising translational approach for the delivery of SCOs in different pharmaceutical forms.
Nucleic Acids Research 02/2011; 39(12):5284-98. · 8.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Several strategies based on synthetic oligonucleotides (ON) have been proposed to control gene expression. As for most biomolecules, however, delivery has remained a major roadblock for in vivo applications. Conjugation of steric-block neutral DNA mimics, such as peptide nucleic acids (PNA) or phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligonucleotides (PMO), to cell-penetrating peptides (CPP) has recently been proposed as a new delivery strategy. It is particularly suitable for sequence-specific interference with pre-mRNA splicing, thus offering various applications in fundamental research and in therapeutics. The chemical synthesis of these CPP-ON conjugates will be described as well as easy-to-implement assays to monitor cellular uptake, endosome leakage, and efficiency of splicing redirection.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Arginine-rich cell-penetrating peptides have found excellent utility in cell and in vivo models for enhancement of delivery of attached charge-neutral PNA or PMO oligonucleotides. We report the synthesis of dendrimeric peptides containing 2- or 4-branched arms each having one or more R-Ahx-R motifs and their disulfide conjugation to a PNA705 splice-redirecting oligonucleotide. Conjugates were assayed in a HeLa pLuc705 cell assay for luciferase up-regulation and splicing redirection. Whereas 8-Arg branched peptide-PNA conjugates showed poor activity compared to a linear (R-Ahx-R)(4)-PNA conjugate, 2-branched and some 4-branched 12 and 16 Arg peptide-PNA conjugates showed activity similar to that of the corresponding linear peptide-PNA conjugates. Many of the 12- and 16-Arg conjugates retained significant activity in the presence of serum. Evidence showed that biological activity in HeLa pLuc705 cells of the PNA conjugates of branched and linear (R-Ahx-R) peptides is associated with an energy-dependent uptake pathway, predominantly clathrin-dependent, but also with some caveolae dependence.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The full therapeutic potential of oligonucleotide (ON)-based agents has been hampered by cellular delivery challenges. Cell-penetrating peptides (CPP) represent promising delivery vectors for nucleic acids, and their potential has recently been evaluated using a functional splicing redirection assay, which capitalizes on the nuclear delivery of splice-correcting steric-block ON analogues such as peptide nucleic acids (PNA). Despite encouraging in vitro and in vivo data with arginine-rich CPP-steric block conjugates, mechanistic studies have shown that entrapment within the endosome/lysosome compartment after endocytosis remains a limiting factor. Previous work from our group has shown that CPP oligomerization greatly improves cellular delivery and increases transfection of plasmid DNA. We now report the chemical synthesis and the evaluation of multivalent CPP-PNA constructs incorporating monomeric (p53(mono)) and dendrimer-like tetrameric (p53(tet)) forms of the p53 tetramerization domain containing peptide, a 10 arginine CPP domain (R10), and a splice redirecting PNA (PNA705). These CPP-PNA conjugates were termed R10p53(tet)-PNA705 and R10p53(mono)-PNA705, referring to their oligomerization state. The present study demonstrates that the splicing redirection efficiency of PNA705 is much greater in the context of the tetrameric R10p53(tet)-PNA705 construct than for the monomeric and occurs at nanomolar concentrations, demonstrating that multivalency is an important factor in delivering PNA into cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Several strategies based on synthetic oligonucleotides (ON) have been proposed to control gene expression. As for most biomolecules, however, delivery has remained a major roadblock for in vivo applications. Conjugation of steric-block neutral DNA mimics such as peptide nucleic acids (PNA) or phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligonucleotides (PMO) to cell penetrating peptides (CPP) has recently been proposed as a new delivery strategy. It is particularly suitable to interfere sequence-specifically with pre-mRNA splicing thus offering various applications in fundamental research and in therapeutics. The chemical synthesis of these CPP conjugates as well as methodologies to monitor their cellular uptake and their efficiency in a reliable and easy to implement assay of splicing correction will be described.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Steric blocking peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligonucleotides have been used increasingly for redirecting RNA splicing particularly in therapeutic applications such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Covalent attachment of a cell-penetrating peptide helps to improve cell delivery of PNA. We have used a HeLa pLuc705 cell splicing redirection assay to develop a series of PNA internalization peptides (Pip) conjugated to an 18-mer PNA705 model oligonucleotide with higher activity compared to a PNA705 conjugate with a leading cell-penetrating peptide being developed for therapeutic use, (R-Ahx-R)(4). We show that Pip-PNA705 conjugates are internalized in HeLa cells by an energy-dependent mechanism and that the predominant pathway of cell uptake of biologically active conjugate seems to be via clathrin-dependent endocytosis. In a mouse model of DMD, serum-stabilized Pip2a or Pip2b peptides conjugated to a 20-mer PNA (PNADMD) targeting the exon 23 mutation in the dystrophin gene showed strong exon-skipping activity in differentiated mdx mouse myotubes in culture in the absence of an added transfection agent at concentrations where naked PNADMD was inactive. Injection of Pip2a-PNADMD or Pip2b-PNADMD into the tibealis anterior muscles of mdx mice resulted in approximately 3-fold higher numbers of dystrophin-positive fibres compared to naked PNADMD or (R-Ahx-R)(4)-PNADMD.
Nucleic Acids Research 11/2008; 36(20):6418-28. · 8.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Rerouting the splicing machinery with steric-block oligonucleotides (ON) might lead to new therapeutic strategies in the treatment of diseases such as beta-thalassemia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or cancers. Interfering with splicing requires the sequence-specific and stable hybridization of RNase H-incompetent ON as peptide nucleic acids (PNA) or phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMO). Unfortunately, these uncharged DNA mimics are poorly taken up by most cell types and conventional delivery strategies that rely on electrostatic interaction do not apply. Likewise, conjugation to cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) as Tat, Arg9, Lys8, or Pen leads to poor splicing correction efficiency at low concentration essentially because PNA- and PMO-CPP conjugates remain entrapped within endocytotic vesicles. Recently, we have designed an arginine-rich peptide (R-Ahx-R)4 (with Ahx for aminohexanoic acid) and an arginine-tailed Penetratin derivative which allow sequence-specific and efficient splicing correction at low concentration in the absence of endosomolytic agents. Both CPPs are undergoing structure-activity relationship studies for further optimization as steric-block ON delivery vectors.
Journal of Peptide Science 05/2008; 14(4):455-60. · 2.07 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Charge neutral steric block oligonucleotide analogues, such as peptide nucleic acids (PNA) or phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMO), have promising biological and pharmacological properties for antisense applications, such as for example in mRNA splicing redirection. However, cellular uptake of free oligomers is poor and the utility of conjugates of PNA or PMO to cell penetrating peptides (CPP), such as Tat or Penetratin, is limited by endosomal sequestration. Two new families of arginine-rich CPPs named (R-Ahx-R)(4) AhxB and R(6)Pen allow efficient nuclear delivery of splice correcting PNA and PMO at micromolar concentrations in the absence of endosomolytic agents. The in vivo efficacy of (R-Ahx-R)(4) AhxB PMO conjugates has been demonstrated in mouse models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and in various viral infections.
Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 04/2008; 60(4-5):517-29. · 12.89 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Serum-stabilized PNA-internalization peptides (Pip) conjugated to PNA complementary to the 705 aberrant beta-globin splice site are able to correct splicing and increase luciferase production in Hela pLuc705 cells with sub microM EC(50) in the absence of a transfection agent. Inhibition of microRNA-122 in liver cells is achieved by treatment with complementary PNA containing just a few attached Lys residues, again without need of a transfection agent.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cationic CPPs (cell-penetrating peptides) have been used largely for intracellular delivery of low-molecular-mass drugs, biomolecules and particles. Most cationic CPPs bind to cell-associated glycosaminoglycans and are internalized by endocytosis, although the detailed mechanisms involved remain controversial. Sequestration and degradation in endocytic vesicles severely limits the efficiency of cytoplasmic and/or nuclear delivery of CPP-conjugated material. Re-routing the splicing machinery by using steric-block ON (oligonucleotide) analogues, such as PNAs (peptide nucleic acids) or PMOs (phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers), has consequently been inefficient when ONs are conjugated with standard CPPs such as Tat (transactivator of transcription), R(9) (nona-arginine), K(8) (octalysine) or penetratin in the absence of endosomolytic agents. New arginine-rich CPPs such as (R-Ahx-R)(4) (6-aminohexanoic acid-spaced oligo-arginine) or R(6) (hexa-arginine)-penetratin conjugated to PMO or PNA resulted in efficient splicing correction at non-cytotoxic doses in the absence of chloroquine. SAR (structure-activity relationship) analyses are underway to optimize these peptide delivery vectors and to understand their mechanisms of cellular internalization.
Biochemical Society Transactions 09/2007; 35(Pt 4):775-9. · 2.59 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We synthesized and evaluated by surface plasmon resonance 64 LNA/2'-O-methyl sequences corresponding to all possible combinations of such residues in a kissing aptamer loop complementary to the 6-nt loop of the TAR element of HIV-1. Three combinations of LNA/2'-O-methyl nucleoside analogues where one or two LNA units are located on the 3' side of the aptamer loop display an affinity for TAR below 1nM, i.e. one order of magnitude higher than the parent RNA aptamer. One of these combinations inhibits the TAR-dependent luciferase expression in a cell assay.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Replication of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is controlled by a variety of viral and host proteins. The viral protein Tat acts in concert with host cellular factors to stimulate transcriptional elongation from the viral long terminal repeat (LTR) through a specific interaction with a 59-residue stem-loop RNA known as the trans-activation responsive element (TAR). Inhibitors of Tat-TAR recognition are expected to block transcription and suppress HIV-1 replication. In previous studies, we showed that 2'-O-methyl (OMe) oligonucleotide mixmers containing locked nucleic acid (LNA) residues are powerful steric block inhibitors of Tat-dependent trans-activation in a HeLa cell reporter system. Here we compare OMe/LNA mixmer oligonucleotides with oligonucleotides containing tricyclo-DNAs and their mixmers with OMe residues in four different assays: (1) binding to the target TAR RNA, (2) Tat-dependent in vitro transcription from an HIV-1 DNA template directed by HeLa cell nuclear extract, (3) trans-activation inhibition in HeLa cells containing a stably integrated firefly luciferase reporter gene under HIV-1 LTR control, and (4) an anti-HIV beta-galactosidase reporter assay of viral infection. Although tricyclo-DNA oligonucleotides bound TAR RNA more weakly, they were as good as OMe/LNA oligonucleotides in suppressing in vitro transcription and trans-activation in HeLa cells when delivered by cationic lipid. No inhibition of in vitro transcription and trans-activation in HeLa cells was observed for tricyclo-DNA/OMe mixmers, even though their affinities to TAR RNA were strong and their cell distributions did not differ from oligonucleotides containing all or predominantly tricyclo-DNA residues. Tricyclo-DNA 16-mer showed sequence-specific inhibition of beta-galactosidase expression in an anti-HIV HeLa cell reporter assay.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sequence-specific interference with the nuclear pre-mRNA splicing machinery has received increased attention as an analytical tool and for development of therapeutics. It requires sequence-specific and high affinity binding of RNaseH-incompetent DNA mimics to pre-mRNA. Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) or phosphoramidate morpholino oligonucleotides (PMO) are particularly suited as steric block oligonucleotides in this respect. However, splicing correction by PNA or PMO conjugated to cell penetrating peptides (CPP), such as Tat or Penetratin, has required high concentrations (5-10 microM) of such conjugates, unless an endosomolytic agent was added to increase escape from endocytic vesicles. We have focused on the modification of existing CPPs to search for peptides able to deliver more efficiently splice correcting PNA or PMO to the nucleus in the absence of endosomolytic agents. We describe here R6-Penetratin (in which arginine-residues were added to the N-terminus of Penetratin) as the most active of all CPPs tested so far in a splicing correction assay in which masking of a cryptic splice site allows expression of a luciferase reporter gene. Efficient and sequence-specific correction occurs at 1 muM concentration of the R6Pen-PNA705 conjugate as monitored by luciferase luminescence and by RT-PCR. Some aspects of the R6Pen-PNA705 structure-function relationship have also been evaluated.
Nucleic Acids Research 02/2007; 35(13):4495-502. · 8.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Trans-activation of HIV-1 transcription is triggered by the interaction of the protein Tat and host cellular factors with a 59-residue stem-loop RNA known as the trans-activation responsive element (TAR). Here we compare the trans-activation steric block inhibitory activity of 16-mer oligonucleotides targeted to TAR containing tricyclo-DNAs, and their mixmers with LNA or OMe residues, with LNA/OMe oligonucleotide. Despite generally weaker TAR RNA binding affinity, all tricyclo-DNA oligonucleotides showed similarly good activity levels to OMe/LNA oligonucleotide in a HeLa Tat-dependent trans-activation cell reporter assay with cationic lipid delivery, but mixmers of tricyclo-DNA were inactive. Tricyclo-DNA 16-mer showed sequence-specific inhibition of beta-galactosidase expression in an anti-HIV HeLa cell reporter assay.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Towards the development of oligonucleotide analogues and siRNA as drugs, one potential alternative to the use of liposomal transfection agents is the covalent conjugation of a cell-penetrating peptide (CPP), with the intention of imparting on the oligonucleotide or siRNA an enhanced ability to enter mammalian cells and reach the appropriate RNA target. We have developed robust methods for the chemical synthesis of disulfide-linked conjugates of oligonucleotide analogues, siRNA and peptide nucleic acids (PNA) with a range of cationic and other CPPs. In a HeLa cell assay with integrated plasmid reporters of Tat-dependent trans-activation at the TAR RNA target in the cell nucleus, we were unable to obtain steric block inhibition of gene expression for conjugates of CPPs with a 12-mer oligonucleotide mixmer of 2'-O-methyl and locked nucleic acids units. By contrast, we were able to obtain some reductions in expression of P38alpha MAP kinase mRNA in HeLa cells using microM concentrations of Penetratin or Tat peptides conjugated to the 3'-end of the sense strand of siRNA. However, the most promising results to date have been with a 16-mer PNA conjugated to the CPP Transportan or a double CPP R(6)-Penetratin, where we have demonstrated Tat-dependent trans-activation inhibition in HeLa cells. Results to date suggest the possibility of development of CPP-PNA conjugates as anti-HIV agents as well as other potential applications involving nuclear cell delivery, such as the redirection of splicing.