RNA interference is a post transcriptional gene silencing mechanism that is triggered by double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). Various attributes of the 3′ end structure, including overhang length and sequence composition, plays a primary role in determining the position of the Dicer cleavage in both dsRNA and unimolecular, short hairpin RNA (shRNA). The specificity and robustness of RNAi have triggered an immense interest in using RNAi as a tool in various settings. RNAi is a mechanism for controlling normal gene expression which has recently began to be employed as a potential therapeutic agent for a wide range of disorders, including cancer, infectious diseases and metabolic disorders. Clinical trials with RNAi have now begin, but major obstacles, such as off-target effects, toxicity and unsafe delivery methods, have to be overcome before RNAi can be considered as a conventional drug. It is also used as a tool to improve crops by providing resistance against parasites and modified versions of siRNA that are directed against disease causing genes are being developed, some of which are already tested in clinical trials. In this paper, we first reviewed the RNAi mechanism and then focussed on some of its applications in biomedical research such as treatment for HIV, viral hepatitis and several other diseases.
SiRNAs, small interfering RNAs; RISC, RNA induced silencing complex; MiRNAs, microRNAs; RNAi; Gene silencing; Antiviral; Dicer
RNA interference (RNAi) is an evolutionarily conserved, endogenous process for
post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. Although RNAi therapeutics have recently
progressed through the pipeline toward clinical trials, the application of these as ideal, clinical
therapeutics requires the development of safe and effective delivery systems. Inspired by the
immense progress with nanotechnology in drug delivery, efforts have been dedicated to the
development of nanoparticle-based RNAi delivery systems. For example, a precisely engineered,
multifunctional nanocarrier with combined passive and active targeting capabilities may address the
delivery challenges for the widespread use of RNAi as a therapy. Therefore, in this review, we
introduce the major hurdles in achieving efficient RNAi delivery and discuss the current advances in
applying nanotechnology-based delivery systems to overcome the delivery hurdles of RNAi
therapeutics. In particular, some representative examples of nanoparticle-based delivery
formulations for targeted RNAi therapeutics are highlighted.
small interfering (si)RNA; non-viral vector; multifunctional nanoparticle; targeting delivery; passive and active targeting
Delivery of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to tumours remains a major obstacle for the development of RNA interference (RNAi)-based therapeutics. Following the promising pre-clinical and clinical results with the oncolytic herpes simplex virus (HSV) OncoVEXGM-CSF, we aimed to express RNAi triggers from oncolytic HSV, which although has the potential to improve treatment by silencing tumour-related genes, was not considered possible due to the highly oncolytic properties of HSV.
To evaluate RNAi-mediated silencing from an oncolytic HSV backbone, we developed novel replicating HSV vectors expressing short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) or artificial microRNA (miRNA) against the reporter genes green fluorescent protein (eGFP) and β-galactosidase (lacZ). These vectors were tested in non-tumour cell lines in vitro and tumour cells that are moderately susceptible to HSV infection both in vitro and in mice xenografts in vivo. Silencing was assessed at the protein level by fluorescent microscopy, x-gal staining, enzyme activity assay, and western blotting.
Our results demonstrate that it is possible to express shRNA and artificial miRNA from an oncolytic HSV backbone, which had not been previously investigated. Furthermore, oncolytic HSV-mediated delivery of RNAi triggers resulted in effective and specific silencing of targeted genes in tumour cells in vitro and tumours in vivo, with the viruses expressing artificial miRNA being comprehensibly more effective.
This preliminary data provide the first demonstration of oncolytic HSV-mediated expression of shRNA or artificial miRNA and silencing of targeted genes in tumour cells in vitro and in vivo. The vectors developed in this study are being adapted to silence tumour-related genes in an ongoing study that aims to improve the effectiveness of oncolytic HSV treatment in tumours that are moderately susceptible to HSV infection and thus, potentially improve response rates seen in human clinical trials.
The limiting factor in in vivo RNA interference (RNAi) is delivery. Drug delivery methods that are effective in cell culture may not be practical in vivo for intravenous RNAi applications. Nucleic acid drugs are highly charged and do not cross cell membranes by free diffusion. Therefore, the in vivo delivery of RNAi-therapeutics must using targeting technology that enables the RNAi therapeutic to traverse biological membrane barriers in vivo. For RNAi of the brain, the nucleic acid-based drug must first cross the brain capillary endothelial wall, which forms the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in vivo, and then traverse the brain cell plasma membrane. Similar to the delivery of non-viral gene therapies, plasmid DNA encoding for short hairpin RNA (shRNA) may be delivered to brain following intravenous administration with pegylated immunoliposomes (PILs). The plasmid DNA is encapsulated in a 100 nm liposome, which is pegylated, and conjugated with receptor specific targeting monoclonal antibodies (MAb). Weekly, intravenous RNAi with PILs enables a 90% knockdown of the human epidermal growth factor receptor, which results in a 90% increase in survival time in mice with intra-cranial brain cancer. Similar to the delivery of antisense agents, short interfering RNAi (siRNA) duplexes can be delivered with the combined use of targeting MAb’s and avidin-biotin technology. The siRNA is mono-biotinylated in parallel with the production of a conjugate of the targeting MAb and streptavidin. Intravenous RNAi requires the combined use of RNAi technology and a drug targeting technology that is effective in vivo.
blood-brain barrier; RNAi; endothelium; transferrin receptor; insulin receptor; monoclonal antibody
Previously we have shown that SV40 pseudovirions packaged in vitro (IVPs) are an efficient delivery system for super-coiled DNA plasmids of up to 17.7 kb, with or without SV40 sequences. RNA interference (RNAi) is a naturally occurring gene silencing mechanism mediated by small double-stranded RNA molecules (small interfering RNAs, siRNAs). This study demonstrates the first use of SV40 pseudovirions to deliver into human cells both principal types of RNAi effector molecules, plasmid expressed short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) and synthetic siRNAs. We first established the ability of human lymphoblastoid cells to support RNAi using sequential transduction of .45 cells with packaged plasmid DNA expressing the green fluorescent protein (IVP-GFP), and an shRNA corresponding to the GFP (IVP-shGFP). SV40 mediates DNA transfer of nucleic acid to the cytoplasm, where RNAi-associated cleavage of mRNA principally occurs. Using SV40 pseudovirions, siRNA-mediated RNAi was observed in both .45 cells, following sequential transduction of IVP-GFP and IVP packaged siRNAs corresponding to GFP (IVP-siGFP), and in HeLa cells stably expressing a GFP transduced with IVP-siGFP. Our findings indicate that SV40 pseudovirions may be a useful addition to the delivery systems currently being used for the transfer of RNAi effector molecules.
RNA interference (RNAi) technology has not only become a powerful tool for functional genomics, but also allows rapid drug target discovery and in vitro validation of these targets in cell culture. Furthermore, RNAi represents a promising novel therapeutic option for treating human diseases, in particular cancer. Selective gene silencing by RNAi can be achieved essentially by two nucleic acid based methods: i) cytoplasmic delivery of short double-stranded (ds) interfering RNA oligonucleotides (siRNA), where the gene silencing effect is only transient in nature, and possibly not suitable for all applications; or ii) nuclear delivery of gene expression cassettes that express short hairpin RNA (shRNA), which are processed like endogenous interfering RNA and lead to stable gene down-regulation. Both processes involve the use of nucleic acid based drugs, which are highly charged and do not cross cell membranes by free diffusion. Therefore, in vivo delivery of RNAi therapeutics must use technology that enables the RNAi therapeutic to traverse biological membrane barriers in vivo. Viruses and the vectors derived from them carry out precisely this task and have become a major delivery system for shRNA. Here, we summarize and compare different currently used viral delivery systems, give examples of in vivo applications, and indicate trends for new developments, such as replicating viruses for shRNA delivery to cancer cells.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a promising strategy to suppress the expression of disease-relevant genes and induce post-transcriptional gene silencing. Their simplicity and stability endow RNAi with great advantages in molecular medicine. Several RNAi-based drugs are in various stages of clinical investigation. This review summarizes the ongoing research endeavors on RNAi in molecular medicine, delivery systems for RNAi-based drugs, and a compendium of RNAi drugs in different stages of clinical development. Of special interest are RNAi-based drug target discovery and validation, delivery systems for RNAi-based drugs, such as nanoparticles, rabies virus protein-based vehicles, and bacteriophages for RNA packaging.
RNA interference; delivery systems; liposome; nanoparticle; molecular medicines
RNA interference (RNAi) was discovered less than a decade ago and already there are human clinical trials in progress or planned. A major advantage of RNAi versus other anti-sense based approaches for therapeutic applications is that it utilizes cellular machinery that efficiently allows targeting of complementary transcripts, often resulting in highly potent down-regulation of gene expression. Despite the excitement about this remarkable biological process for sequence specific gene regulation, there are a number of hurdles and concerns that must be overcome prior to making RNAi a real therapeutic modality, which include off-target effects, triggering of type I interferon responses, and effective delivery in vivo. This review discusses mechanistic aspects of RNAi, the potential problem areas and solutions and therapeutic applications. It is anticipated that RNAi will be a major therapeutic modality within the next several years, and clearly warrants intense investigation to fully understand the mechanisms involved.
siRNA; shRNA; RNAi; RNA interference; antisense; miRNA; RISC
RNA interference (RNAi) is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for sequence-specific gene silencing. Recent advances in our understanding of RNAi machinery make it possible to reduce protein expression by introducing short hairpin RNA (shRNA) into cells of many systems, however, the efficacy of RNAi-mediated protein knockdown can be quite variable, especially in intact animals, and this limits its application. We built adaptable molecular tools, pSilencer (pSi) and pReporter (pRe) constructs, to evaluate the impact of different promoters, shRNA structures and overexpression of Ago2, the key enzyme in the RNA-induced silencing complex, on the efficiency of RNAi. The magnitude of RNAi knockdown was evaluated in cultured cells and intact animals by comparing fluorescence intensity levels of GFP, the RNAi target, relative to mCherry, which was not targeted. Co-expression of human Ago2 with shRNA significantly enhanced efficiency of GFP knockdown in cell lines and in neurons of intact Xenopus tadpoles. Human H1- and U6-promotors alone or the U6-promotor with an enhancer element were equally effective at driving GFP knockdown. shRNA derived from the microRNA-30 design (shRNAmir30) enhanced the efficiency of GFP knockdown. Expressing pSi containing Ago2 with shRNA increased knockdown efficiency of an endogenous neuronal protein, the GluR2 subunit of the AMPA receptor, functionally accessed by recording AMPA receptor-mediated spontaneous synaptic currents in Xenopus CNS neurons. Our data suggest that co-expression of Ago2 and shRNA is a simple method to enhance RNAi in intact animals. While morpholino antisense knockdown is effective in Xenopus and Zebrafish, a principle advantage of the RNAi method is the possibility of spatial and temporal control of protein knockdown by use of cell type specific and regulatable pol II promoters to drive shRNA and Ago2. This should extend the application of RNAi to study gene function of intact brain circuits.
shRNA; RNAi; knockdown; Pol III promoter; Ago2; AMPA receptor; Xenopus
Since the discovery that the triggers for RNA interference (RNAi), small interfering RNAs, could mediate silencing in mammalian cells without triggering a toxic response, RNAi has become the standard tool for sequence-specific knockdown of gene expression in molecular biology. This is due in part to the development of methods for promoter-based expression of RNAi triggers that can mediate stable silencing in mammalian cells. Numerous systems with slightly different characteristics exist, but despite incredible progress in a field that moves very rapidly, challenges still remain. The biggest challenge is to successfully and safely apply RNAi in vivo. Aside from potential issues of delivery, which is one of the most important considerations, successful application of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) in vivo requires expression systems that yield potent and specific knockdown of the target in the absence of toxicity. With a couple of exceptions, the current systems available for shRNA expression have not generally resulted in unexpected toxicities, while still providing strong knockdown of the intended targets; however, we do not know enough about how sequence-specific off-target effects will affect various cell and tissue types, or to what extent ectopic expression of RNAi triggers will perturb the endogenous RNAi mechanisms.
RNA interference (RNAi) targeted towards viral mRNAs is widely used to block virus replication in mammalian cells. The specific antiviral RNAi response can be induced via transfection of synthetic small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or via intracellular expression of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs). For HIV-1, both approaches resulted in profound inhibition of virus replication. However, the therapeutic use of a single siRNA/shRNA appears limited due to the rapid emergence of RNAi-resistant escape viruses. These variants contain deletions or point mutations within the target sequence that abolish the antiviral effect. To avoid escape from RNAi, the virus should be simultaneously targeted with multiple shRNAs. Alternatively, long hairpin RNAs can be used from which multiple effective siRNAs may be produced. In this study, we constructed extended shRNAs (e-shRNAs) that encode two effective siRNAs against conserved HIV-1 sequences. Activity assays and RNA processing analyses indicate that the positioning of the two siRNAs within the hairpin stem is critical for the generation of two functional siRNAs. E-shRNAs that are efficiently processed into two effective siRNAs showed better inhibition of virus production than the poorly processed e-shRNAs, without inducing the interferon response. These results provide building principles for the design of multi-siRNA hairpin constructs.
RNA interference (RNAi) mediates gene silencing in many eukaryotes and has been widely used to investigate gene functions. A common method to induce sustained RNAi is introducing plasmids that synthesize short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) using Pol III promoters. While these promoters synthesize shRNAs and elicit RNAi efficiently, they lack cell specificity. Monitoring shRNA expression levels in individual cells by Pol III promoters is also difficult. An alternative way to deliver RNAi is to use Pol II-directed synthesis of shRNA. Previous efforts in developing a Pol II system have been sparse and the results were conflicting, and the usefulness of those Pol II vectors has been limited due to low efficacy. Here we demonstrate a new Pol II system that directs efficient shRNA synthesis and mediates strong RNAi at levels that are comparable with the commonly used Pol III systems. In addition, this system synthesizes a marker protein under control of the same promoter as the shRNA, thus providing an unequivocal indicator, not only to the cells that express the shRNA, but also to the levels of the shRNA expression. This system may be adapted for in vivo shRNA expression and gene silencing.
Combinatorial RNA interference (co-RNAi) is a valuable tool for highly effective gene suppression of single and multiple-genes targets, and can be used to prevent the escape of mutation-prone transcripts. There are currently three main approaches used to achieve co-RNAi in animal cells; multiple promoter/shRNA cassettes, long hairpin RNAs (lhRNA) and miRNA-embedded shRNAs, however, the relative effectiveness of each is not known. The current study directly compares the ability of each co-RNAi method to deliver pre-validated siRNA molecules to the same gene targets.
Double-shRNA expression vectors were generated for each co-RNAi platform and their ability to suppress both single and double-gene reporter targets were compared. The most reliable and effective gene silencing was achieved from the multiple promoter/shRNA approach, as this method induced additive suppression of single-gene targets and equally effective knockdown of double-gene targets. Although both lhRNA and microRNA-embedded strategies provided efficient gene knockdown, suppression levels were inconsistent and activity varied greatly for different siRNAs tested. Furthermore, it appeared that not only the position of siRNAs within these multi-shRNA constructs impacted upon silencing activity, but also local properties of each individual molecule. In addition, it was also found that the insertion of up to five promoter/shRNA cassettes into a single construct did not negatively affect the efficacy of each individual shRNA.
By directly comparing the ability of shRNAs delivered from different co-RNA platforms to initiate knockdown of the same gene targets, we found that multiple U6/shRNA cassettes offered the most reliable and predictable suppression of both single and multiple-gene targets. These results highlight some important strengths and pitfalls of the currently used methods for multiple shRNA delivery, and provide valuable insights for the design and application of reliable co-RNAi.
RNA interference (RNAi) mediated by expression of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) is a powerful tool for efficiently suppressing target genes. The approach allows studies of the function of individual genes and may also be applied to human therapy. However, in many instances regulation of RNAi by administration of a small inducer molecule will be required. To date, the development of appropriate regulatory systems has been hampered by the few possibilities for modification within RNA polymerase III promoters capable of driving efficient expression of shRNAs. We have developed an inducible minimal RNA polymerase III promoter that is activated by a novel recombinant transactivator in the presence of doxycycline (Dox). The recombinant transactivator and the engineered promoter together form a system permitting regulation of RNAi by Dox-induced expression of shRNAs. Regulated RNAi was mediated by one single lentiviral vector, blocked the expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) in a GFP-expressing HEK 293T derived cell line and suppressed endogenous p53 in wild-type HEK 293T, MCF-7 and A549 cells. RNA interference was induced in a dose- and time-dependent manner by administration of Dox, silenced the expression of both target genes by 90% and was in particular reversible after withdrawal of Dox.
RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated by the expression of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) has emerged as a powerful experimental tool for reverse genetic studies in mammalian cells. A number of recent reports have described approaches allowing regulated production of shRNAs based on modified RNA polymerase II (Pol II) or RNA polymerase III (Pol III) promoters, controlled by drug-responsive transactivators or repressors such as tetracycline (Tet)-dependent transactivators and repressors. However, the usefulness of these approaches is often times limited, caused by inefficient delivery and/or expression of shRNA-encoding sequences in target cells and/or poor design of shRNAs sequences. With a view toward optimizing Tet-regulated shRNA expression in mammalian cells, we compared the capacity of a variety of hybrid Pol III promoters to express short shRNAs in target cells following lentivirus-mediated delivery of shRNA-encoding cassettes.
RNAi-mediated knockdown of gene expression in target cells, controlled by a modified Tet-repressor (TetR) in the presence of doxycycline (Dox) was robust. Expression of shRNAs from engineered human U6 (hU6) promoters containing a single tetracycline operator (TO) sequence between the proximal sequence element (PSE) and the TATA box, or an improved second-generation Tet-responsive promoter element (TRE) placed upstream of the promoter was tight and reversible as judged using quantitative protein measurements. We also established and tested a novel hU6 promoter system in which the distal sequence element (DSE) of the hU6 promoter was replaced with a second-generation TRE. In this system, positive regulation of shRNA production is mediated by novel Tet-dependent transactivators bearing transactivation domains derived from the human Sp1 transcription factor.
Our modified lentiviral vector system resulted in tight and reversible knockdown of target gene expression in unsorted cell populations. Tightly regulated target gene knockdown was observed with vectors containing either a single TO sequence or a second-generation TRE using carefully controlled transduction conditions. We expect these vectors to ultimately find applications for tight and reversible RNAi in mammalian cells in vivo.
RNA interference (RNAi) can potently reduce target gene expression in mammalian cells and is in wide use for loss-of-function studies. Several recent reports have demonstrated that short double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs), used to mediate RNAi, can also induce an interferon-based response resulting in changes in the expression of many interferon-responsive genes. Off-target gene silencing has also been described, bringing into question the validity of certain RNAi-based approaches for studying gene function. We have targeted the plasminogen activator inhibitor-2 (PAI-2 or SERPINB2) mRNA using lentiviral vectors for delivery of U6 promoter-driven PAI-2-targeted short hairpin RNA (shRNA) expression. PAI-2 is reported to have anti-apoptotic activity, thus reduction of endogenous expression may be expected to make cells more sensitive to programmed cell death.
As expected, we encountered a cytotoxic phenotype when targeting the PAI-2 mRNA with vector-derived shRNA. However, this predicted phenotype was a potent non-specific effect of shRNA expression, as functional overexpression of the target protein failed to rescue the phenotype. By decreasing the shRNA length or modifying its sequence we maintained PAI-2 silencing and reduced, but did not eliminate, cytotoxicity. ShRNA of 21 complementary nucleotides (21 mers) or more increased expression of the oligoadenylate synthase-1 (OAS1) interferon-responsive gene. 19 mer shRNA had no effect on OAS1 expression but long-term selective pressure on cell growth was observed. By lowering lentiviral vector titre we were able to reduce both expression of shRNA and induction of OAS1, without a major impact on the efficacy of gene silencing.
Our data demonstrate a rapid cytotoxic effect of shRNAs expressed in human tumor cell lines. There appears to be a cut-off of 21 complementary nucleotides below which there is no interferon response while target gene silencing is maintained. Cytotoxicity or OAS1 induction could be reduced by changing shRNA sequence or vector titre, but stable gene silencing could not be maintained in extended cell culture despite persistent marker gene expression from the RNAi-inducing transgene cassette. These results underscore the necessity of careful controls for immediate and long-term RNAi use in mammalian cell systems.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a collection of small RNA directed mechanisms that result in sequence specific inhibition of gene expression. The notion that RNAi could lead to a new class of therapeutics caught the attention of many investigators soon after its discovery. The field of applied RNAi therapeutics has moved very quickly from lab to bedside. The RNAi approach has been widely used for drug development and several phase I and II clinical trials are under way. However, there are still some concerns and challenges to overcome for therapeutic applications. These include the potential for off-target effects, triggering innate immune responses and most importantly obtaining specific delivery into the cytoplasm of target cells. This review focuses on the current status of RNAi-based therapeutics, the challenges it faces and how to overcome them.
RNAi; delivery; siRNA; therapeutics; shRNA
With unprecedented speed, RNA interference (RNAi) has advanced from its basic discovery in lower organisms to becoming a powerful genetic tool and perhaps our single most promising biotherapeutic for a wide array of diseases. Numerous studies document RNAi efficacy in laboratory animals, and the first clinical trials are underway and thus far suggest that RNAi is safe to use in humans. Yet substantial hurdles have also surfaced and must be surmounted before therapeutic RNAi applications can become a standard therapy. Here we review the most critical roadblocks and concerns for clinical RNAi transition, delivery, and safety. We highlight emerging solutions and concurrently discuss novel therapeutic RNAi-based concepts. The current rapid advances create realistic optimism that the establishment of RNAi as a new and potent clinical modality in humans is near.
Therapeutics that are designed to engage RNA interference (RNAi) pathways have the potential to provide new, major ways of imparting therapy to patients.1,2 Fire et al. first demonstrated that long, double stranded RNAs mediate RNAi in Caenorhabditis elegans,3 and Elbashir et al. opened the pathway to the use of RNAi for human therapy by showing that small interfering RNAs (siRNAs: ca. 21 base pair double stranded RNA) can elicit RNAi in mammalian cells without producing an interferon response.4 We are currently conducting the first-in-human Phase I clinical trial involving the systemic administration of siRNA to patients with solid cancers using a targeted, nanoparticle delivery system. Here we provide evidence of inducing an RNAi mechanism of action in a human from the delivered siRNA. Tumor biopsies from melanoma patients obtained after treatment reveal: (i) the presence of intracellularly-localized nanoparticles in amounts that correlate with dose levels of the nanoparticles administered (this is a first for systemically delivered nanoparticles of any kind), and (ii) reduction in both the specific mRNA (M2 subunit of ribonucleotide reductase (RRM2)) and the protein (RRM2) when compared to pre-dosing tissue. Most importantly, we detect the presence of an mRNA fragment that demonstrates siRNA mediated mRNA cleavage occurs specifically at the site predicted for an RNAi mechanism from a patient who received the highest dose of the nanoparticles. These data when taken in total demonstrate that siRNA administered systemically to a human can produce a specific gene inhibition (reduction in mRNA and protein) by an RNAi mechanism of action.
Chemoresistance is a major obstacle in cancer treatment. Targeted therapies that enhance cancer cell sensitivity to chemotherapeutic agents have the potential to increase drug efficacy while reducing toxic effects on untargeted cells. Targeted cancer therapy by RNA interference (RNAi) is a relatively new approach that can be used to reversibly silence genes in vivo by selectively targeting genes such as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which has been shown to increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to taxane chemotherapy. However, delivery represents the main hurdle for the broad development of RNAi therapeutics.
We report here the use of core/shell hydrogel nanoparticles (nanogels) functionalized with peptides that specially target the EphA2 receptor to deliver small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting EGFR. Expression of EGFR was determined by immunoblotting, and the effect of decreased EGFR expression on chemosensitization of ovarian cancer cells after siRNA delivery was investigated.
Treatment of EphA2 positive Hey cells with siRNA-loaded, peptide-targeted nanogels decreased EGFR expression levels and significantly increased the sensitivity of this cell line to docetaxel (P < 0.05). Nanogel treatment of SK-OV-3 cells, which are negative for EphA2 expression, failed to reduce EGFR levels and did not increase docetaxel sensitivity (P > 0.05).
This study suggests that targeted delivery of siRNAs by nanogels may be a promising strategy to increase the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs for the treatment of ovarian cancer. In addition, EphA2 is a viable target for therapeutic delivery, and the siRNAs are effectively protected by the nanogel carrier, overcoming the poor stability and uptake that has hindered clinical advancement of therapeutic siRNAs.
RNA interference (RNAi) has become the cornerstone technology for studying gene function in mammalian cells. In addition, it is a promising therapeutic treatment for multiple human diseases. Virus-mediated constitutive expression of short hairpin RNA (shRNA) has the potential to provide a permanent source of silencing molecules to tissues, and it is being devised as a strategy for the treatment of liver conditions such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus infection. Unintended interaction between silencing molecules and cellular components, leading to toxic effects, has been described in vitro. Despite the enormous interest in using the RNAi technology for in vivo applications, little is known about the safety of constitutively expressing shRNA for multiple weeks. Here we report the effects of in vivo shRNA expression, using helper-dependent adenoviral vectors. We show that gene-specific knockdown is maintained for at least 6 weeks after injection of 1 × 1011 viral particles. Nonetheless, accumulation of mature shRNA molecules was observed up to weeks 3 and 4, and then declined gradually, suggesting the buildup of mature shRNA molecules induced cell death with concomitant loss of viral DNA and shRNA expression. No evidence of well-characterized innate immunity activation (such as interferon production) or saturation of the exportin-5 pathway was observed. Overall, our data suggest constitutive expression of shRNA results in accumulation of mature shRNA molecules, inducing cellular toxicity at late time points, despite the presence of gene silencing.
Ahn and colleagues investigate the safety of constitutively expressing short hairpin RNA (shRNA), using helper-dependent adenovirus vectors for multiple weeks in vivo. Hairpin molecules were effectively processed, and gene-specific knockdown was maintained for at least 6 weeks after injection. However, accumulated mature shRNAs declined gradually after week 4, suggesting induction of cell death with concomitant loss of viral DNA and shRNA expression. No evidence of innate immune activation was observed.
RNA interference (RNAi) provides a powerful new means to inhibit viral infection specifically. However, the selection of siRNA-resistant viruses is a major concern in the use of RNAi as antiviral therapeutics. In this study, we conducted a lentiviral vector with a H1-short hairpin RNA (shRNA) expression cassette to deliver small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) into mammalian cells. Using this vector that also expresses enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP) as surrogate marker, stable shRNA-expressing cell lines were successfully established and the inhibition efficiencies of rationally designed siRNAs targeting to conserved regions of influenza A virus genome were assessed. The results showed that a siRNA targeting influenza M2 gene (siM2) potently inhibited viral replication. The siM2 was not only effective for H1N1 virus but also for highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1. In addition to its M2 inhibition, the siM2 also inhibited NP mRNA accumulation and protein expression. A long term inhibition effect of the siM2 was demonstrated and the emergence of siRNA-resistant mutants in influenza quasispecies was not observed. Taken together, our study suggested that M2 gene might be an optimal RNAi target for antiviral therapy. These findings provide useful information for the development of RNAi-based prophylaxis and therapy for human influenza virus infection.
Recently developed antiviral strategies based upon RNA interference (RNAi), which harnesses an innate cellular system for the targeted down-regulation of gene expression, appear highly promising and offer alternative approaches to conventional highly active antiretroviral therapy or efforts to develop an AIDS vaccine. However, RNAi is faced with several challenges that must be overcome to fully realize its promise. Specifically, it degrades target RNA in a highly sequence-specific manner and is thus susceptible to viral mutational escape, and there are also challenges in delivery systems to induce RNAi. To aid in the development of anti-human immunodeficiency virus (anti-HIV) RNAi therapies, we have developed a novel stochastic computational model that simulates in molecular-level detail the propagation of an HIV infection in cells expressing RNAi. The model provides quantitative predictions on how targeting multiple locations in the HIV genome, while keeping the overall RNAi strength constant, significantly improves efficacy. Furthermore, it demonstrates that delivery systems must be highly efficient to preclude leaving reservoirs of unprotected cells where the virus can propagate, mutate, and eventually overwhelm the entire system. It also predicts how therapeutic success depends upon a relationship between RNAi strength and delivery efficiency and uniformity. Finally, targeting an essential viral element, in this case the HIV TAR region, can be highly successful if the RNAi target sequence is correctly selected. In addition to providing specific predictions for how to optimize a clinical therapy, this system may also serve as a future tool for investigating more fundamental questions of viral evolution.
Aptamers are nucleic acid ligands which have been validated to bind to epitopes with a specificity similar to that of monoclonal antibodies. Aptamers have been primarily investigated for their direct function in terms of inhibition of protein targets; however, recent evidence gives reason to actively explore aptamers as targeting moieties for delivery of anticancer therapeutics. Many aptamers have been developed to bind to extracellular membrane domains of proteins overexpressed on cancer cells and have the potential to be modified for use in targeting cancer therapeutics. The use of DNA vector-based short hairpin RNA (shRNA) for RNA interference (RNAi) is a precise means for the disruption of target gene expression but its clinical usage in cancer is limited by obstacles related to delivery into cancer cells. Nucleic acid aptamers are attractive candidates for targeting of shRNA therapies. Their small size, ease of production and modification, and high specificity are valued attributes in comparison to other targeting moieties currently being tested. Here we review the development of aptamers directed to PSMA, Nucleolin, HER-3, RET, TN-C, and MUC1 and focus on their potential for use in targeting of shRNA-based cancer therapeutics.
aptamer; tumor targeting; oligonucleotides therapeutics; cancer; shRNA; gene therapy
Despite a better understanding of the pathogenesis of oral cancer, its treatment outcome remains poor. Thus, there is a need for new therapeutic strategies to improve the prognosis of this disease. RNA interference (RNAi) appears to be a promising therapeutic tool for the treatment of many diseases, including oral cancer. However, an obstacle for RNAi-mediated therapies has been delivery, in particular, the retention of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) in endosomes and their subsequent degradation in lysosomes, resulting in inefficient gene silencing. Thus, the current study examined the feasibility of designing and utilizing a peptide, termed 599, consisting of a synthetic influenza virus-derived endosome-disruptive fusogenic peptide sequence and a stretch of cationic cell-penetrating nona(D-arginine) residues, to deliver siRNAs into oral cancer cells and induce silencing of the therapeutic target, CIP2A, an oncoprotein overexpressed in various human malignancies including oral cancer. Increasing the 599 peptide-to-siRNA molar ratio demonstrated a higher binding capacity for siRNA molecules and enhanced siRNA delivery into the cytoplasm of oral cancer cells. In fact, quantitative measurements of siRNA delivery into cells demonstrated that a 50∶1 peptide-to-siRNA molar ratio could deliver 18-fold higher amounts of siRNAs compared to cells treated with siRNA alone with no significant long-term cytotoxic effects. Most importantly, the 599 peptide-mediated siRNA delivery promoted significant CIP2A mRNA and protein silencing which resulted in decreased oral cancer cell invasiveness and anchorage-independent growth. Together, these data demonstrate that a chimeric peptide consisting of a fusogenic sequence, in combination with cell-penetrating residues, can be used to effectively deliver siRNAs into oral cancer cells and induce the silencing of its target gene, potentially offering a new therapeutic strategy in combating oral cancer.