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1.  Short Interfering RNA Accumulation Correlates with Host Recovery in DNA Virus-Infected Hosts, and Gene Silencing Targets Specific Viral Sequences 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(14):7465-7477.
Viruses are both inducers and targets of posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS), a natural defense mechanism in plants. Here we report molecular evidence of the ability of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) viruses to induce PTGS in infected plants irrespective of the severity of or recovery from the symptoms. Our results reveal that five distinct species of cassava-infecting geminiviruses were capable of triggering PTGS by producing two classes of virus-specific short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) of 21 to 26 nucleotides in two plant hosts, tobacco (Nicotiana benthamiana) and cassava (Manihot esculenta, Crantz). However, the efficacy of virus-induced PTGS varied depending on the intrinsic features of the virus and its interaction with the plant host. We found that symptom recovery over time in plants infected with the isolates of African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV-[CM]) or Sri Lankan cassava mosaic virus was associated with a much higher level of virus-derived siRNA accumulation compared to plants infected with viruses that do not show symptom recovery. Furthermore, we determined that the C terminus of AC1 that overlaps with the N terminus of AC2 early viral genes involved in virus replication were the primary targets for ACMV-[CM]-induced PTGS, whereas the C terminus of BC1 was targeted for the East African cassava mosaic Cameroon virus. In addition, our results reveal the possibility for double-stranded RNA formation during transcription in ssDNA viruses, which explains in part how these viruses can trigger PTGS in plants.
PMCID: PMC434130  PMID: 15220420
2.  The preferred route for the degradation of silencing target RNAs in transgenic plants depends on pre-established silencing conditions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(11):3400-3409.
RNA silencing can be initiated upon dsRNA accumulation and results in homology-dependent degradation of target RNAs mediated by 21–23 nt small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). These small regulatory RNAs can direct RNA degradation via different routes such as the RdRP/Dicer- and the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC)-catalysed pathways. The relative contribution of both pathways to degradation of target RNAs is not understood. To gain further insight in the process of target selection and degradation, we analysed production of siRNAs characteristic for Dicer-mediated RNA degradation during silencing of mRNAs and chimeric viral RNAs in protoplasts from plants of a transgenic tobacco silencing model line. We show that small RNA accumulation is limited to silencing target regions during steady-state mRNA silencing. For chimeric viral RNAs, siRNA production appears dependent on pre-established cellular silencing conditions. The observed siRNA accumulation profiles imply that silencing of viral target RNAs in pre-silenced protoplasts occurs mainly via a RISC-mediated pathway, guided by (pre-existing) siRNAs derived from cellular mRNAs. In cells that are not silenced at the time of infection, viral RNA degradation seems to involve Dicer action directly on the viral RNAs. This suggests that the silencing mechanism flexibly deploys different components of the RNA degradation machinery in function of the prevailing silencing status.
PMCID: PMC443538  PMID: 15220468
3.  A comparison of eukaryotic viral 5'-leader sequences as enhancers of mRNA expression in vivo. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1987;15(21):8693-8711.
The 5'-untranslated leader sequences of several plant RNA viruses, and a portion of the 5'-leader of an animal retrovirus, were tested for their ability to enhance expression of contiguous open reading frames for chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) or beta-glucuronidase (GUS) in tobacco mesophyll protoplasts, Escherichia coli and oocytes of Xenopus laevis. Translation of capped or uncapped transcripts was substantially enhanced in almost all systems by the leader sequence of either the U1 or SPS strain of TMV. All leader sequences, except that of TYMV, stimulated expression of 5'-capped GUS mRNA with the native prokaryotic initiation codon context, in electroporated protoplasts. Only the TMV leaders enhanced translation of uncapped GUS mRNAs in protoplasts and increased expression of uncapped CAT mRNA in microinjected X. laevis oocytes. In oocytes, the TYMV leader sequence was inhibitory. In transformed E. coli, the TMV-U1 leader enhanced expression of both the native and eukaryotic context forms of GUS mRNA about 7.5-fold, despite the absence of a Shine-Dalgarno region in any of the transcripts. The absolute levels of GUS activity were all about 6-fold higher with mRNAs containing the native initiation codon context. In E. coli, the leaders of AlMV RNA4 and TYMV were moderately stimulatory whereas those of BMV RNA3, RSV and the SPS strain of TMV enhanced GUS expression by only 2- to 3-fold.
PMCID: PMC306399  PMID: 2825117
4.  Alkane-modified short polyethyleneimine for siRNA delivery 
RNA interference (RNAi) is a highly specific gene-silencing mechanism triggered by small interfering RNA (siRNA). Effective intracellular delivery requires the development of potent siRNA carriers. Here, we describe the synthesis and screening of a series of siRNA delivery materials. Short polyethyleneimine (PEI, Mw 600) was selected as a cationic backbone to which lipid tails were conjugated at various levels of saturation. In solution these polymer–lipid hybrids self-assemble to form nanoparticles capable of complexing siRNA. The complexes silence genes specifically and with low cytotoxicity. The efficiency of gene knockdown increased as the number of lipid tails conjugated to the PEI backbone increased. This is explained by reducing the binding affinity between the siRNA strands to the complex, thereby enabling siRNA release after cellular internalization. These results highlight the importance of complexation strength when designing siRNA delivery materials.
PMCID: PMC3814168  PMID: 22155553
Lipid; Conjugation; Complexation; Affinity; Polyethyleneimine (PEI); Cationic
5.  Central Role for Protein Targeting to Glycogen in the Maintenance of Cellular Glycogen Stores in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(1):334-342.
Overexpression of the protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) subunit protein targeting to glycogen (PTG) markedly enhances cellular glycogen levels. In order to disrupt the endogenous PTG-PP1 complex, small interfering RNA (siRNA) constructs against PTG were identified. Infection of 3T3-L1 adipocytes with PTG siRNA adenovirus decreased PTG mRNA and protein levels by >90%. In parallel, PTG reduction resulted in a >85% decrease in glycogen levels 4 days after infection, supporting a critical role for PTG in glycogen metabolism. Total PP1, glycogen synthase, and GLUT4 levels, as well as insulin-stimulated signaling cascades, were unaffected. However, PTG knockdown reduced glycogen-targeted PP1 protein levels, corresponding to decreased cellular glycogen synthase- and phosphorylase-directed PP1 activity. Interestingly, GLUT1 levels and acute insulin-stimulated glycogen synthesis rates were increased two- to threefold, and glycogen synthase activation in the presence of extracellular glucose was maintained. In contrast, glycogenolysis rates were markedly increased, suggesting that PTG primarily acts to suppress glycogen breakdown. Cumulatively, these data indicate that disruption of PTG expression resulted in the uncoupling of PP1 activity from glycogen metabolizing enzymes, the enhancement of glycogenolysis, and a dramatic decrease in cellular glycogen levels. Further, they suggest that reduction of glycogen stores induced cellular compensation by several mechanisms, but ultimately these changes could not overcome the loss of PTG expression.
PMCID: PMC1317620  PMID: 16354703
6.  The miRNA pathway limits AGO1 availability during siRNA-mediated PTGS defense against exogenous RNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(21):9339-9344.
In plants, most microRNAs (miRNAs) and several endogenous small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) bind to ARGONAUTE1 (AGO1) to regulate the expression of endogenous genes through post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS). AGO1 also participates in a siRNA-mediated PTGS defense response that thwarts exogenous RNA deriving from viruses and transgenes. Here, we reveal that plants supporting transgene PTGS exhibit increased levels of AGO1 protein. Moreover, increasing AGO1 levels either by mutating miRNA pathway components or, more specifically, by impairing miR168-directed regulation of AGO1 mRNA leads to increased PTGS efficiency, indicating that the miRNA pathway dampens the efficiency of PTGS, likely by limiting the availability of AGO1. We propose that during the transgene PTGS initiation phase, transgene siRNAs and endogenous siRNAs and miRNA compete to bind to AGO1, leading to a transient reduction in AGO1–miR168 complexes and a decline in AGO1 mRNA cleavage. The concomitant increase in AGO1 protein levels would facilitate the formation of AGO1–transgene siRNA complexes and the entry into the PTGS amplification phase. We suggest that the miRNA pathway imposes an important limitation on PTGS efficiency, which could help protect endogenous mRNAs from being routinely targeted by PTGS.
PMCID: PMC3241636  PMID: 21813456
7.  Effects of the tom1 mutation of Arabidopsis thaliana on the multiplication of tobacco mosaic virus RNA in protoplasts. 
Journal of Virology  1993;67(9):5328-5338.
For the multiplication of RNA viruses, specific host factors are considered essential, but as of yet little is known about this aspect of virus multiplication. To identify such host factors, we previously isolated PD114, a mutant of Arabidopsis thaliana, in which the accumulation of the coat protein of tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) in uninoculated leaves of an infected plant was reduced to low levels. The causal mutation, designated tom1, was single, nuclear, and recessive. Here, we demonstrate that the tom1 mutation affects the amplification of TMV-related RNAs in a single cell. When protoplasts were inoculated with TMV RNA by electroporation, the percentage of TMV-positive protoplasts (detected by indirect immunofluorescence staining with anti-TMV antibodies) was lower (about 1/5 to 1/10) among PD114 protoplasts than among wild-type protoplasts. In TMV-positive PD114 protoplasts, the amounts of the positive-strand RNAs (the genomic RNA and subgenomic mRNAs) and coat protein reached levels similar to, or slightly lower than, those reached in TMV-positive wild-type protoplasts, but the accumulation of the positive-strand RNAs and coat protein occurred more slowly than with the wild-type protoplasts. The parallel decrease in the amounts of the coat protein and its mRNA suggests that the coat protein is translated from its mRNA with normal efficiency. These observations support the idea that the TOM1 gene encodes a host factor necessary for the efficient amplification of TMV RNA in an infected cell. Furthermore, we show that TMV multiplication in PD114 protoplasts is severely affected by the coinoculation of cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) RNA. When PD114 protoplasts were inoculated with a mixture of TMV and CMV RNAs by electroporation, the accumulation of TMV-related molecules was approximately one-fifth of that in PD114 protoplasts inoculated with TMV RNA alone. No such reduction in the accumulation of TMV-related molecules was observed when wild-type protoplasts were inoculated with a mixture of TMV and CMV RNAs or when wild-type and PD114 protoplasts were inoculated with a mixture of TMV and turnip crinkle virus RNAs. These observations are compatible with a hypothetical model in which a gene(s) that is distinct from the TOM1 gene is involved in both TMV and CMV multiplication.
PMCID: PMC237932  PMID: 8350399
8.  Role of RNA Interference (RNAi) in the Moss Physcomitrella patens 
RNA interference (RNAi) is a mechanism that regulates genes by either transcriptional (TGS) or posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS), required for genome maintenance and proper development of an organism. Small non-coding RNAs are the key players in RNAi and have been intensively studied in eukaryotes. In plants, several classes of small RNAs with specific sizes and dedicated functions have evolved. The major classes of small RNAs include microRNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which differ in their biogenesis. miRNAs are synthesized from a short hairpin structure while siRNAs are derived from long double-stranded RNAs (dsRNA). Both miRNA and siRNAs control the expression of cognate target RNAs by binding to reverse complementary sequences mediating cleavage or translational inhibition of the target RNA. They also act on the DNA and cause epigenetic changes such as DNA methylation and histone modifications. In the last years, the analysis of plant RNAi pathways was extended to the bryophyte Physcomitrella patens, a non-flowering, non-vascular ancient land plant that diverged from the lineage of seed plants approximately 450 million years ago. Based on a number of characteristic features and its phylogenetic key position in land plant evolution P. patens emerged as a plant model species to address basic as well as applied topics in plant biology. Here we summarize the current knowledge on the role of RNAi in P. patens that shows functional overlap with RNAi pathways from seed plants, and also unique features specific to this species.
PMCID: PMC3565333  PMID: 23344055
RNAi; non-coding RNAs; miRNA; siRNA; gene silencing; Physcomitrella patens
9.  Rapid, Cell-Based Toxicity Screen of Potentially Therapeutic Post-Transcriptional Gene Silencing Agents 
Experimental Eye Research  2011;92(5):328-337.
Post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) agents such as antisense, ribozymes and RNA interference (RNAi) have great potential as therapeutics for a variety of eye diseases including retinal and macular degenerations, glaucoma, corneal degenerations, inflammatory and viral conditions. Despite their great potential and over thirty years of academic and corporate research only a single PTGS agent is currently approved for human therapy for a single disease. Substantial challenges exist to achieving both efficacious and safe PTGS agents. Efficacy, as measured in specific target mRNA and protein knockdown, depends upon a number of complex factors including the identification of rare regions of target mRNA accessibility, cellular colocalization of the PTGS agent in sufficient concentration with the target mRNA, and stability of the PTGS agent in the target cells in which it is delivered or expressed. Safety is commonly measured by lack of cytotoxicity or other deleterious cellular responses in cells in which the PTGS agent is delivered or expressed. To relieve major bottlenecks in RNA drug discovery novel, efficient, inexpensive, and rapid tools are needed to facilitate lead identification of the most efficacious PTGS agent, rational optimization of efficacy of the lead agent, and lead agent safety determinations. We have developed a technological platform using cell culture expression systems that permits lead identification and efficacy optimization of PTGS agents against arbitrary disease target mRNAs under relatively high throughput conditions. Here, we extend the technology platform to include PTGS safety determinations in cultured human cells that are expected to represent the common cellular housekeeping microenvironment. We developed a high throughput screening (HTS) cytotoxicity assay in 96-well plate format based around the SYTOX Green dye which is excluded from healthy viable cells and becomes substantially fluorescent only after entering cells and binding to nuclear DNA. In this format we can test a number of PTGS agents for cellular toxicity relative to control elements. We also developed a HTS 96-well plate assay that allows us to assess the impact of any given PTGS agent on stimulating a variety of common cellular stress signaling pathways (e.g. CRE, SRE, AP-1, NFκB, Myc, and NFAT) that could indicate possible deleterious effects of PTGS agents either dependent or independent of base pairing complementarity with target mRNAs. To this end we exploited the secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) Pathway Profiling System where the expression of the secreted reporter protein is coupled to transcriptional activation of a variety of promoter elements involved in common cell signaling pathways. We found that a variety of lead hammerhead ribozyme (hhRz) and short hairpin (shRNA) expression constructs did not exert cytotoxicity in human cells when driven by highly active RNA Pol-III promoters. We also found that most of the cell signaling pathways tested (CRE, SRE, Myc, and NFAT) did not significantly couple through upregulation to expression of the set of PTGS agents tested. AP-1 and NFκB upregulation both appear to couple to the expression of some PTGS agents which likely reflect the known properties of these pathways to be stimulated by abundant small structured RNAs.
PMCID: PMC3388980  PMID: 21256844
post-transcriptional gene silencing; high throughput screening
10.  VEGF siRNA Delivery System Using Arginine-Grafted Bioreducible Poly(disulfide amine) 
Molecular pharmaceutics  2009;6(3):718-726.
Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are able to silence their target genes when they are successfully delivered intact into the cytoplasm. Delivery systems that enhance siRNA localization to the cytoplasm can facilitate gene silencing by siRNA therapeutics. We describe an arginine-conjugated poly(cystaminebisacrylamide-diaminohexane) (poly(CBA-DAH-R)), a bioreducible cationic polymer, as an siRNA carrier for therapeutic gene silencing for cancer. After intracellular uptake of the siRNA/poly(CBA-DAH-R) polyplexes, the reductive environment of the cytoplasm cleaves the disulfide linkages in the polymeric backbone, resulting in decomplexing of the siRNA/poly(CBA-DAH-R) polyplexes and release of siRNA molecules throughout the cytoplasm. The siRNA/poly(CBA-DAH-R) polyplexes, which demonstrate increased membrane permeability with arginine modification, have a similar level of cellular uptake as siRNA/bPEI polyplexes. The VEGF siRNA/poly(CBA-DAH-R) polyplexes, however, inhibit VEGF expression to a greater degree than VEGF siRNA/bPEI in various human cancer cell lines. The improved RNAi activity demonstrated by the VEGF siRNA/poly(CBA-DAH-R) polyplexes is due to enhanced intracellular delivery and effective localization to the cytoplasm of the VEGF siRNAs. These results demonstrate that the VEGF siRNA/poly(CBA-DAH-R) polyplex delivery system may useful for siRNA-based approaches for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC2754713  PMID: 19055368
Cytoplasmic localization; siRNA; bioreducible cationic polymer; gene silencing; vascular endothelial growth factor; cancer therapy
11.  Prostate-targeted biodegradable nanoparticles loaded with androgen receptor silencing constructs eradicate xenograft tumors in mice 
Nanomedicine (London, England)  2012;7(9):1297-1309.
Prostate cancer is the major cause of cancer death in men and the androgen receptor (AR) has been shown to play a critical role in the progression of the disease. Our previous reports showed that knocking down the expression of the AR gene using a siRNA-based approach in prostate cancer cells led to apoptotic cell death and xenograft tumor eradication. In this study, we utilized a biodegradable nanoparticle to deliver the therapeutic AR shRNA construct specifically to prostate cancer cells.
Materials & methods
The biodegradable nanoparticles were fabricated using a poly(dl-lactic-co-glycolic acid) polymer and the AR shRNA constructs were loaded inside the particles. The surface of the nanoparticles were then conjugated with prostate-specific membrane antigen aptamer A10 for prostate cancer cell-specific targeting.
A10-conjugation largely enhanced cellular uptake of nanoparticles in both cell culture- and xenograft-based models. The efficacy of AR shRNA encapsulated in nanoparticles on AR gene silencing was confirmed in PC-3/AR-derived xenografts in nude mice. The therapeutic property of A10-conjugated AR shRNA-loaded nanoparticles was evaluated in xenograft models with different prostate cancer cell lines: 22RV1, LAPC-4 and LNCaP. Upon two injections of the AR shRNA-loaded nanoparticles, rapid tumor regression was observed over 2 weeks. Consistent with previous reports, A10 aptamer conjugation significantly enhanced xenograft tumor regression compared with nonconjugated nanoparticles.
These data demonstrated that tissue-specific delivery of AR shRNA using a biodegradable nanoparticle approach represents a novel therapy for life-threatening prostate cancers.
PMCID: PMC3448843  PMID: 22583574
androgen receptor; aptamer; nanoparticle; prostate cancer; prostate-specific membrane antigen; siRNA
12.  A Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CMV) RNA 1 Transgene Mediates Suppression of the Homologous Viral RNA 1 Constitutively and Prevents CMV Entry into the Phloem 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(19):9114-9120.
Resistance to Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) in tobacco lines transformed with CMV RNA 1 is characterized by reduced virus accumulation in the inoculated leaf, with specific suppression of accumulation of the homologous viral RNA 1, and by the absence of systemic infection. We show that the suppression of viral RNA 1 occurs in protoplasts from resistant transgenic plants and therefore is not due to a host response activated by the cell-to-cell spread of virus. In contrast, suppression of Tobacco rattle virus vectors carrying CMV RNA 1 sequences did not occur in protoplasts from resistant plants. Furthermore, steady-state levels of transgene mRNA 1 were higher in resistant than in susceptible lines. Thus, the data indicate that sequence homology is not sufficient to induce suppression. Grafting experiments using transgenic resistant or susceptible rootstocks and scions demonstrated that the resistance mechanism exhibited an additional barrier to phloem entry, preventing CMV from moving a long distance in resistant plants. On the other hand, virus from susceptible rootstocks could systemically infect grafted resistant scions via the phloem. Analysis of viral RNA accumulation in the infected scions showed that the mechanism that suppresses the accumulation of viral RNA 1 at the single-cell level was overcome. The data indicate that this transgene-mediated systemic resistance probably is not based on a posttranscriptional gene-silencing mechanism.
PMCID: PMC114480  PMID: 11533175
13.  Delivery of Quantum Dot-siRNA Nanoplexes in SK-N-SH Cells for BACE1 Gene Silencing and Intracellular Imaging 
The fluorescent quantum dots (QDs) delivered small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting β-secretase (BACE1) to achieve high transfection efficiency of siRNAs and reduction of β-amyloid (Aβ) in nerve cells. The CdSe/ZnS QDs with the conjugation of amino-polyethylene glycol (PEG) were synthesized. Negatively charged siRNAs were electrostatically adsorbed to the surface of QDs to develop QD-PEG/siRNA nanoplexes. The QD-PEG/siRNAs nanoplexes significantly promote the transfection efficiency of siRNA, and the siRNAs from non-packaged nanoplexes were widely distributed in cell bodies and processes and efficiently silenced BACE1 gene, leading to the reduction of Aβ. The biodegradable PEG polymer coating could protect QDs from being exposed to the intracellular environment and restrained the release of toxic Cd2+. Therefore, the QD-PEG/siRNA nanoplexes reported here might serve as ideal carriers for siRNAs. We developed a novel method of siRNA delivery into nerve cells. We first reported that the QD-PEG/siRNA nanoplexes were generated by the electrostatic interaction and inhibited the Alzheimer's disease (AD)-associated BACE1 gene. We also first revealed the dynamics of QD-PEG/siRNAs within nerve cells via confocal microscopy and the ultrastructural evidences under transmission electron microscopy (TEM). This technology might hold promise for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as AD.
PMCID: PMC3381642  PMID: 23343930
Alzheimer's disease; BACE1; quantum dot; siRNA; SK-N-SH cells
14.  Sense Transgene-Induced Post-Transcriptional Gene Silencing in Tobacco Compromises the Splicing of Endogenous Counterpart Genes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87869.
Sense transgene-induced post-transcriptional gene silencing (S-PTGS) is thought to be a type of RNA silencing in which ARGONAUTE1 directs the small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated cleavage of a target mRNA in the cytoplasm. Here, we report that the altered splicing of endogenous counterpart genes is a main cause for the reduction of their mature mRNA levels. After the S-PTGS of a tobacco endoplasmic reticulum ω-3 fatty acid desaturase (NtFAD3) gene, 3′-truncated, polyadenylated endo-NtFAD3 transcripts and 5′-truncated, intron-containing endo-NtFAD3 transcripts were detected in the total RNA fraction. Although transcription proceeded until the last exon of the endogenous NtFAD3 gene, intron-containing NtFAD3 transcripts accumulated in the nucleus of the S-PTGS plants. Several intron-containing NtFAD3 transcripts harboring most of the exon sequences were generated when an endogenous silencing suppressor gene, rgs-CaM, was overexpressed in the S-PTGS plants. These intron-containing NtFAD3 splice variants were generated in the presence of NtFAD3 siRNAs that are homologous to the nucleotide sequences of these splice variants. The results of this study indicate that the inhibition of endo-NtFAD3 gene expression is primarily directed via the alteration of splicing and not by cytoplasmic slicer activity. Our results suggest that the transgene and intron-containing endogenous counterpart genes are differentially suppressed in S-PTGS plants.
PMCID: PMC3931610  PMID: 24586294
15.  Pro-apoptotic gene knockdown mediated by nanocomplexed siRNA reduces radiation damage in primary salivary gland cultures 
Journal of Cellular Biochemistry  2012;113(6):1955-1965.
A critical issue in the management of head and neck tumors is radioprotection of the salivary glands. We have investigated whether siRNA-mediated gene knock down of pro-apoptotic mediators can reduce radiation-induced cellular apoptosis in salivary gland cells in vitro. We used novel, pH-responsive nanoparticles to deliver functionally active siRNAs into cultures of salivary gland cells. The nanoparticle molecules are comprised of cationic micelles that electrostatically interact with the siRNA, protecting it from nuclease attack, and also include pH-responsive endosomolytic constituents that promote release of the siRNA into the target cell cytoplasm. Transfection controls with Cy3-tagged siRNA/nanoparticle complexes showed efficiently internalized siRNAs in more than 70% of the submandibular gland cells. We found that introduction of siRNAs specifically targeting the Pkcδ or Bax genes significantly blocked the induction of these pro-apoptotic proteins that normally occurs after radiation in cultured salivary gland cells. Furthermore, the level of cell death from subsequent radiation, as measured by caspase-3, TUNEL, and mitochondrial disruption assays, was significantly decreased. Thus, we have successfully demonstrated that the siRNA/ nanoparticle-mediated knock down of pro-apoptotic genes can prevent radiation-induced damage in submandibular gland primary cell cultures.
PMCID: PMC3360791  PMID: 22253051
irradiation; salivary gland; apoptosis; Pkcδ; Bax; in vitro
16.  The post-transcriptional gene silencing machinery functions independently of DNA methylation to repress a LINE1-like retrotransposon in Neurospora crassa 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(5):1564-1573.
Post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) involving small interfering RNA (siRNA)-directed degradation of RNA transcripts and transcriptional silencing via DNA methylation have each been proposed as mechanisms of genome defence against invading nucleic acids, such as transposons and viruses. Furthermore, recent data from plants indicates that many transposons are silenced via a combination of the two mechanisms, and siRNAs can direct methylation of transposon sequences. We investigated the contribution of DNA methylation and the PTGS pathway to transposon control in the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa. We found that repression of the LINE1-like transposon, Tad, requires the Argonaute protein QDE2 and Dicer, each of which are required for transgene-induced PTGS (quelling) in N.crassa. Interestingly, unlike quelling, the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase QDE1 and the RecQ DNA helicase QDE3 were not required for Tad control, suggesting the existence of specialized silencing pathways for diverse kinds of repetitive elements. In contrast, Tad elements were not significantly methylated and the DIM2 DNA methyltransferase, responsible for all known DNA methylation in Neurospora, had no effect on Tad control. Thus, an RNAi-related transposon silencing mechanism operates during the vegetative phase of N.crassa that is independent of DNA methylation, highlighting a major difference between this organism and other methylation-proficient species.
PMCID: PMC1065258  PMID: 15767281
17.  DSIR: Assessing the Design of Highly Potent siRNA by Testing a Set of Cancer-Relevant Target Genes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48057.
Chemically synthesized small interfering RNA (siRNA) is a widespread molecular tool used to knock down genes in mammalian cells. However, designing potent siRNA remains challenging. Among tools predicting siRNA efficacy, very few have been validated on endogenous targets in realistic experimental conditions. We previously described a tool to assist efficient siRNA design (DSIR, Designer of siRNA), which focuses on intrinsic features of the siRNA sequence. Here, we evaluated DSIR’s performance by systematically investigating the potency of the siRNA it designs to target ten cancer-related genes. mRNA knockdown was measured by quantitative RT-PCR in cell-based assays, revealing that over 60% of siRNA sequences designed by DSIR silenced their target genes by at least 70%. Silencing efficacy was sustained even when low siRNA concentrations were used. This systematic analysis revealed in particular that, for a subset of genes, the efficiency of siRNA constructs significantly increases when the sequence is located closer to the 5′-end of the target gene coding sequence, suggesting the distance to the 5′-end as a new feature for siRNA potency prediction. A new version of DSIR incorporating these new findings, as well as the list of validated siRNA against the tested cancer genes, has been made available on the web (
PMCID: PMC3484153  PMID: 23118925
18.  Cap-independent enhancement of translation by a plant potyvirus 5' nontranslated region. 
Journal of Virology  1990;64(4):1590-1597.
The RNA genome of tobacco etch virus (TEV), a plant potyvirus, functions as an mRNA for synthesis of a 346-kilodalton polyprotein that undergoes extensive proteolytic processing. The RNA lacks a normal 5' cap structure at its terminus, which suggests that the mechanism of translational initiation differs from that of a normal cellular mRNA. We have identified a translation-enhancing activity associated with the 144-nucleotide, 5' nontranslated region (NTR) of the TEV genome. When fused to a reporter gene encoding beta-glucuronidase (GUS), the 5' NTR results in an 8- to 21-fold enhancement over a synthetic 5' NTR in a transient-expression assay in protoplasts. A similar effect was observed when the 5' NTR-GUS fusions were expressed in transgenic plants. By using a cell-free translation system, the translation enhancement activity of the TEV 5' NTR was shown to be cap independent, whereas translation of GUS mRNA containing an artificial 5' NTR required the presence of a cap structure. Translation of GUS transcripts containing the TEV 5' NTR was relatively insensitive to the cap analog m7GTP, whereas translation of transcripts containing the artificial 5' NTR was highly sensitive. The 144-nucleotide TEV 5' NTR synthesized in vitro was shown to compete for factors that are required for protein synthesis in the cell-free translation reaction mix. Competition was not observed when a transcript representing the initial 81 nucleotides of the TEV 5' NTR was tested. These results support the hypothesis that the TEV 5' NTR promotes translation in a cap-independent manner that may involve the binding of proteins and/or ribosomes to internal sites within the NTR.
PMCID: PMC249294  PMID: 2319646
19.  Delivery Systems for the Direct Application of siRNAs to Induce RNA Interference (RNAi) In Vivo 
RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful method for specific gene silencing which may also lead to promising novel therapeutic strategies. It is mediated through small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) which sequence-specifically trigger the cleavage and subsequent degradation of their target mRNA. One critical factor is the ability to deliver intact siRNAs into target cells/organs in vivo. This review highlights the mechanism of RNAi and the guidelines for the design of optimal siRNAs. It gives an overview of studies based on the systemic or local application of naked siRNAs or the use of various nonviral siRNA delivery systems. One promising avenue is the the complexation of siRNAs with the polyethylenimine (PEI), which efficiently stabilizes siRNAs and, upon systemic administration, leads to the delivery of the intact siRNAs into different organs. The antitumorigenic effects of PEI/siRNA-mediated in vivo gene-targeting of tumor-relevant proteins like in mouse tumor xenograft models are described.
PMCID: PMC1559929  PMID: 17057369
20.  Plant Virus-Derived Small Interfering RNAs Originate Predominantly from Highly Structured Single-Stranded Viral RNAs†  
Journal of Virology  2005;79(12):7812-7818.
RNA silencing is conserved in a broad range of eukaryotes and includes the phenomena of RNA interference in animals and posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS) in plants. In plants, PTGS acts as an antiviral system; a successful virus infection requires suppression or evasion of the induced silencing response. Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) accumulate in plants infected with positive-strand RNA viruses and provide specificity to this RNA-mediated defense. We present here the results of a survey of virus-specific siRNAs characterized by a sequence analysis of siRNAs from plants infected with Cymbidium ringspot tombusvirus (CymRSV). CymRSV siRNA sequences have a nonrandom distribution along the length of the viral genome, suggesting that there are hot spots for virus-derived siRNA generation. CymRSV siRNAs bound to the CymRSV p19 suppressor protein have the same asymmetry in strand polarity as the sequenced siRNAs and are imperfect double-stranded RNA duplexes. Moreover, an analysis of siRNAs derived from two other nonrelated positive-strand RNA viruses showed that they displayed the same asymmetry as CymRSV siRNAs. Finally, we show that Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) carrying a short inverted repeat of the phytoene desaturase (PDS) gene triggered more accumulation of PDS siRNAs than the corresponding antisense PDS sequence. Taken together, these results suggest that virus-derived siRNAs originate predominantly by direct DICER cleavage of imperfect duplexes in the most folded regions of the positive strand of the viral RNA.
PMCID: PMC1143663  PMID: 15919934
21.  Hyaluronic acid based self-assembling nanosystems for CD44 target mediated siRNA delivery to solid tumors 
Biomaterials  2013;34(13):3489-3502.
Anticancer therapeutics employing RNA interference mechanism holds promising potentials for sequence-specific silencing of target genes. However targeted delivery of siRNAs to tumor tissues and cells and more importantly, their intracellular release at sites of interest still remains a major challenge that needs to be addressed before this technique could become a clinically viable option. In the current study, we have engineered and screened a series of CD44 targeting hyaluronic acid (HA) based self-assembling nanosystems for targeted siRNA delivery. The HA polymer was functionalized with lipids of varying carbon chain lengths/nitrogen content, as well as polyamines for assessing siRNA encapsulation. From the screens, several HA-derivatives were identified that could stably encapsulate/complex siRNAs and form self-assembled nanosystems, as determined by gel retardation assays and dynamic light scattering. Many HA derivatives could transfect siRNAs into cancer cells overexpressing CD44 receptors. Interestingly, blocking the CD44 receptors on the cells using free excess soluble HA prior to incubation of cy3-labeled-siRNA loaded HA nano-assemblies resulted in >90% inhibition of the receptor mediated uptake, confirming target specificity. In addition, SSB/PLK1 siRNA encapsulated in HA-PEI/PEG nanosystems demonstrated dose dependent and target specific gene knockdown in both sensitive and resistant A549 lung cancer cells overexpressing CD44 receptors. More importantly, these siRNA encapsulated nanosystems demonstrated tumor selective uptake and target specific gene knock down in vivo in solid tumors as well as in metastatic tumors. The HA based nanosystems thus portend to be promising siRNA delivery vectors for systemic targeting of CD44 overexpressing cancers including tumor initiating (stem-) cells and metastatic lesions.
PMCID: PMC3636539  PMID: 23410679
Self-assembling nanosystems; siRNA delivery; Multidrug resistance; Tumor targeting; CD44; Hyaluronic acid
22.  Differential Roles of AC2 and AC4 of Cassava Geminiviruses in Mediating Synergism and Suppression of Posttranscriptional Gene Silencing 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(17):9487-9498.
Posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS) in plants is a natural defense mechanism against virus infection. In mixed infections, virus synergism is proposed to result from suppression of the host defense mechanism by the viruses. Synergistic severe mosaic disease caused by simultaneous infection with isolates of the Cameroon strain of African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV-[CM]) and East African cassava mosaic Cameroon virus (EACMCV) in cassava and tobacco is characterized by a dramatic increase in symptom severity and a severalfold increase in viral-DNA accumulation by both viruses compared to that in singly infected plants. Here, we report that synergism between ACMV-[CM] and EACMCV is a two-way process, as the presence of the DNA-A component of ACMV-[CM] or EACMCV in trans enhanced the accumulation of viral DNA of EACMCV and ACMV-[CM], respectively, in tobacco BY-2 protoplasts. Furthermore, transient expression of ACMV-[CM] AC4 driven by the Cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter (p35S-AC4) enhanced EACMCV DNA accumulation by ∼8-fold in protoplasts, while p35S-AC2 of EACMCV enhanced ACMV-[CM] DNA accumulation, also by ∼8-fold. An Agrobacterium-based leaf infiltration assay determined that ACMV-[CM] AC4 and EACMCV AC2, the putative synergistic genes, were able to suppress PTGS induced by green fluorescent protein (GFP) and eliminated the short interfering RNAs associated with PTGS, with a correlated increase in GFP mRNA accumulation. In addition, we have identified AC4 of Sri Lankan cassava mosaic virus and AC2 of Indian cassava mosaic virus as suppressors of PTGS, indicating that geminiviruses evolved differently in regard to interaction with the host. The specific and different roles played by these AC2 and AC4 proteins of cassava geminiviruses in regulating anti-PTGS activity and their relation to synergism are discussed.
PMCID: PMC506916  PMID: 15308741
23.  Variables and Strategies in Development of Therapeutic Post-Transcriptional Gene Silencing Agents 
Journal of Ophthalmology  2011;2011:531380.
Post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) agents such as ribozymes, RNAi and antisense have substantial potential for gene therapy of human retinal degenerations. These technologies are used to knockdown a specific target RNA and its cognate protein. The disease target mRNA may be a mutant mRNA causing an autosomal dominant retinal degeneration or a normal mRNA that is overexpressed in certain diseases. All PTGS technologies depend upon the initial critical annealing event of the PTGS ligand to the target RNA. This event requires that the PTGS agent is in a conformational state able to support hybridization and that the target have a large and accessible single-stranded platform to allow rapid annealing, although such platforms are rare. We address the biocomplexity that currently limits PTGS therapeutic development with particular emphasis on biophysical variables that influence cellular performance. We address the different strategies that can be used for development of PTGS agents intended for therapeutic translation. These issues apply generally to the development of PTGS agents for retinal, ocular, or systemic diseases. This review should assist the interested reader to rapidly appreciate critical variables in PTGS development and facilitate initial design and testing of such agents against new targets of clinical interest.
PMCID: PMC3138052  PMID: 21785698
24.  RNA interference in schistosomes: machinery and methodology 
Parasitology  2009;137(3):485-495.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a potent gene silencing process that is playing an increasingly important role in investigations of gene function in schistosomes. Here we review what is known about the process in these parasites and provide an update on the methodology and machinery of RNAi. Data are presented to demonstrate that: (1) not all schistosome genes can be suppressed to the same extent, using the methods employed here; (2) while there is variation in the level of suppression achieved for one target gene (SmAP) in adult parasites, all individuals exhibit robust (>80%) suppression; (3) short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) can effect suppression when delivered by soaking (and not just via electroporation, as reported previously); (4) Male/female adult pairs need not be separated prior to siRNA delivery by electroporation for effective gene suppression in both genders and (5) electroporation of siRNAs in medium is as efficient as in commercial electroporation buffer. Regarding the machinery of RNAi in schistosomes, a homologue of the C. elegans multi-membrane spanning, RNA importing protein SID-1 is identified in silico. The gene encoding this protein contains 21 exons and spans over 50 kb to potentially encode a 115,556 Mr protein (SmSID-1). These analyses, and a review of the literature, permit us to derive and present here a draft of potential RNAi pathways in schistosomes.
PMCID: PMC2830314  PMID: 19765345
Gene suppression; Dicer; RISC; siRNA
25.  Effect of Nanoparticle Conjugation on Gene Silencing by RNA Interference 
RNA interference (RNAi) is a cellular process whereby the silencing of a particular gene is mediated by short RNAs (siRNAs). Although siRNAs have great therapeutic potential, cellular delivery has been a challenge. Nanoparticle-siRNA conjugates have emerged as potential delivery vehicles; however, reports describing the effects of nanoparticle conjugation on RISC incorporation and subsequent gene silencing have been mixed. In this report, we have systematically evaluated the effect of siRNA coupling strategies using a model nanoparticle system with varying conjugation schemes. We show that the accessibility of the siRNA linked to the nanoparticle and the lability of the cross-linker are critical for efficient gene knockdown.
PMCID: PMC2968757  PMID: 20518524

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