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1.  Cell number and transfection volume dependent peptide nucleic acid antisense activity by cationic delivery methods 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2012;3(1):22-30.
Efficient intracellular delivery is essential for high activity of nucleic acids based therapeutics, including antisense agents. Several strategies have been developed and practically all rely on auxiliary transfection reagents such as cationic lipids, cationic polymers and cell penetrating peptides as complexing agents and carriers of the nucleic acids. However, uptake mechanisms remain rather poorly understood, and protocols always require optimization of transfection parameters. Considering that cationic transfection complexes bind to and thus may up-concentrate on the cell surface, we have now quantitatively compared the cellular activity (in the pLuc705 HeLa cell splice correction system) of PNA antisense oligomers using lipoplex delivery of cholesterol- and bisphosphonate-PNA conjugates, polyplex delivery via a PNA-polyethyleneimine conjugate and CPP delivery via a PNA-octaarginine conjugate upon varying the cell culture transfection volume (and cell density) at fixed PNA concentration. The results show that for all delivery modalities the cellular antisense activity increases (less than proportionally) with increasing volume (in some cases accompanied with increased toxicity), and that this effect is more pronounced at higher cell densities. These results emphasize that transfection efficacy using cationic carriers is critically dependent on parameters such as transfection volume and cell density, and that these must be taken into account when comparing different delivery regimes.
PMCID: PMC3368813  PMID: 22679530
antisense; cellular delivery; lipoplex; octaarginine (CPP); peptide nucleic acid (PNA); polyethyleneimine (PEI)
2.  Subnanomolar antisense activity of phosphonate-peptide nucleic acid (PNA) conjugates delivered by cationic lipids to HeLa cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(13):4424-4432.
In the search of facile and efficient methods for cellular delivery of peptide nucleic acids (PNA), we have synthesized PNAs conjugated to oligophosphonates via phosphonate glutamine and bis-phosphonate lysine amino acid derivatives thereby introducing up to twelve phosphonate moieties into a PNA oligomer. This modification of the PNA does not interfere with the nucleic acid target binding affinity based on thermal stability of the PNA/RNA duplexes. When delivered to cultured HeLa pLuc705 cells by Lipofectamine, the PNAs showed dose-dependent nuclear antisense activity in the nanomolar range as inferred from induced luciferase activity as a consequence of pre-mRNA splicing correction by the antisense-PNA. Antisense activity depended on the number of phosphonate moieties and the most potent hexa-bis-phosphonate-PNA showed at least 20-fold higher activity than that of an optimized PNA/DNA hetero-duplex. These results indicate that conjugation of phosphonate moieties to the PNA can dramatically improve cellular delivery mediated by cationic lipids without affecting on the binding affinity and sequence discrimination ability, exhibiting EC50 values down to one nanomolar. Thus the intracellular efficacy of PNA oligomers rival that of siRNA and the results therefore emphasize that provided sufficient in vivo bioavailability of PNA can be achieved these molecules may be developed into potent gene therapeutic drugs.
PMCID: PMC2490735  PMID: 18596083
3.  Delivery of cell-penetrating peptide-peptide nucleic acid conjugates by assembly on an oligonucleotide scaffold 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:17640.
Delivery to intracellular target sites is still one of the main obstacles in the development of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) as antisense-antigene therapeutics. Here, we designed a self-assembled oligonucleotide scaffold that included a central complementary region for self-assembly and lateral regions complementing the PNAs. Assembly of cell-penetrating peptide (CPP)-PNAs on the scaffold significantly promoted endocytosis of PNAs by at least 10-fold in cell cultures, particularly for scaffolds in which the central complementary region was assembled by poly(guanine) and poly(cytosine). The antisense activity of CPP-PNAs increased by assembly on the scaffold and was further enhanced after co-assembly with endosomolytic peptide (EP)-PNA. This synergistic effect was also observed following the assembly of antigene CPP-PNAs\EP-PNAs on the scaffold. However, antigene activity was only observed by targeting episomal viral DNA or transfected plasmids, but not the chromosome in the cell cultures. In conclusion, assembly on oligonucleotide scaffolds significantly enhanced the antisense-antigene activity of PNAs by promoting endocytosis and endosomal escape. This oligonucleotide scaffold provided a simple strategy for assembly of multiple functional peptide-PNA conjugates, expanding the applications of PNAs and demonstrating the potential of PNAs as antiviral therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4661726  PMID: 26612536
4.  Down-regulation of MDM2 and activation of p53 in human cancer cells by antisense 9-aminoacridine–PNA (peptide nucleic acid) conjugates 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(16):4893-4902.
A series of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers targeting the mdm2 oncogene mRNA has been tested for the ability to inhibit the growth of JAR cells. The effect of these PNAs on the cells was also reflected in reduced levels of the MDM2 protein and increased levels of the p53 tumor suppressor protein, which is negatively regulated by MDM2. Initially, PNA oligomers were delivered as DNA complexes with lipofectamine, but it was discovered that PNA conjugated to the DNA intercalator 9-aminoacridine (Acr) (Acr–PNA) could be effectively delivered to JAR cells (as well as to HeLa pLuc705 cells) even in the absence of a DNA carrier. Using such lipofectamine-delivered Acr–PNA conjugates, one PNA targeting a cryptic AUG initiation site was identified that at a concentration of 2 μM caused a reduction of MDM2 levels to ∼20% (but no reduction in mdm2 mRNA levels) and a 3-fold increase in p53 levels, whereas a 2-base mismatch control had no such effects. Furthermore, transcriptional activation by p53 was also increased (6-fold), and cell viability was reduced to 80%. Finally, this PNA acted cooperatively with camptothecin treatment both with regard to p53 activity induction as well as cell viability. Using this novel cell delivery system, we have identified a target on the mdm2 mRNA that appears sensitive to antisense inhibition by PNA and therefore could be used as a lead for further development of mdm2-targeted antisense (PNA and other) gene therapeutic anticancer drugs.
PMCID: PMC519114  PMID: 15371552
5.  Cell-penetrating peptide conjugates of peptide nucleic acids (PNA) as inhibitors of HIV-1 Tat-dependent trans-activation in cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(21):6837-6849.
The trans-activation response (TAR) RNA stem–loop that occurs at the 5′ end of HIV RNA transcripts is an important antiviral target and is the site of interaction of the HIV-1 Tat protein together with host cellular factors. Oligonucleotides and their analogues targeted to TAR are potential antiviral candidates. We have investigated a range of cell penetrating peptide (CPP) conjugates of a 16mer peptide nucleic acid (PNA) analogue targeted to the apical stem–loop of TAR and show that disulfide-linked PNA conjugates of two types of CPP (Transportan or a novel chimeric peptide R6-Penetratin) exhibit dose-dependent inhibition of Tat-dependent trans-activation in a HeLa cell assay when incubated for 24 h. Activity is reached within 6 h if the lysosomotropic reagent chloroquine is co-administered. Fluorescein-labelled stably-linked conjugates of Tat, Transportan or Transportan TP10 with PNA were inactive when delivered alone, but attained trans-activation inhibition in the presence of chloroquine. Confocal microscopy showed that such fluorescently labelled CPP–PNA conjugates were sequestered in endosomal or membrane-bound compartments of HeLa cells, which varied in appearance depending on the CPP type. Co-administration of chloroquine was seen in some cases to release fluorescence from such compartments into the nucleus, but with different patterns depending on the CPP. The results show that CPP–PNA conjugates of different types can inhibit Tat-dependent trans-activation in HeLa cells and have potential for development as antiviral agents. Endosomal or membrane release is a major factor limiting nuclear delivery and trans-activation inhibition.
PMCID: PMC1301599  PMID: 16321967
6.  Efficient splicing correction by PNA conjugation to an R6-Penetratin delivery peptide 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(13):4495-4502.
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 μM) 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 μM 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.
PMCID: PMC1934994  PMID: 17584792
7.  Synthesis and Splice-Redirecting Activity of Branched, Arginine-Rich Peptide Dendrimer Conjugates of Peptide Nucleic Acid Oligonucleotides 
Bioconjugate Chemistry  2010;21(10):1902-1911.
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.
PMCID: PMC2963316  PMID: 20879728
8.  Effective delivery of antisense peptide nucleic acid oligomers into cells by anthrax protective antigen 
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is highly stable and binds to complementary RNA and DNA with high affinity, but it resists cellular uptake, thereby limiting its bioavailability. We investigated whether protective antigen (PA, a non-toxic component of anthrax toxin) could transport antisense PNA oligomers into reporter cells that contain luciferase transgenes with mutant β-globin IVS2 intronic inserts, which permit aberrant pre-mRNA splicing and impair luciferase expression. PNA oligomers antisense to mutant splice sites in these IVS2 inserts induced luciferase expression when effectively delivered into the cells. PNA 18-mers with C-terminal poly-lysine tails [PNA(Lys)8] demonstrated modest sequence-specific antisense activity by themselves at micromolar concentrations in luc-IVS2 reporter cell cultures. However, this activity was greatly amplified by PA. Antisense PNA(Lys)8 with but not without PA also corrected the IVS2-654 β-globin splice defect in cultured erythroid precursor cells from a patient with β-thalassemia [genotype, IVS2-654(β0/βE)], providing further evidence that anthrax PA can effectively transport antisense PNA oligomers into cells.
PMCID: PMC2581503  PMID: 18774771
peptide nucleic acid; antisense; anthrax protective antigen
9.  Peptide nucleic acids inhibit growth of Brucella suis in pure culture and in infected murine macrophages 
International journal of antimicrobial agents  2013;41(4):10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2012.11.017.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are single-stranded, synthetic nucleic acid analogues containing a pseudopeptide backbone in place of the phosphodiester sugar–phosphate. When PNAs are covalently linked to cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) they readily penetrate the bacterial cell envelope, inhibit expression of targeted genes and cause growth inhibition both of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. However, the effectiveness of PNAs against Brucella, a facultative intracellular bacterial pathogen, was unknown. The susceptibility of a virulent Brucella suis strain to a variety of PNAs was assessed in pure culture as well as in murine macrophages. The studies showed that some of the PNAs targeted to Brucella genes involved in DNA (polA, dnaG, gyrA), RNA (rpoB), cell envelope (asd), fatty acid (kdtA, acpP) and protein (tsf) synthesis inhibit the growth of B. suis in culture and in macrophages after 24 h of treatment. PNA treatment inhibited Brucella growth by interfering with gene expression in a sequence-specific and dose-dependent manner at micromolar concentrations. The most effective PNA in broth culture was that targeting polA at ca. 12 μM. In contrast, in B. suis-infected macrophages, the most effective PNAs were those targeting asd and dnaG at 30 μM; both of these PNAs had little inhibitory effect on Brucella in broth culture. The polA PNA that inhibits wild-type B. suis also inhibits the growth of wild-type Brucella melitensis 16M and Brucella abortus 2308 in culture. This study reveals the potential usefulness of antisense PNA constructs as novel therapeutic agents against intracellular Brucella.
PMCID: PMC3834731  PMID: 23305655
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA); Brucella; Antibiotic resistance; Antisense; Murine macrophage
10.  Translational Inhibition of CTX-M Extended Spectrum β-Lactamase in Clinical Strains of Escherichia coli by Synthetic Antisense Oligonucleotides Partially Restores Sensitivity to Cefotaxime 
Synthetic antisense oligomers are DNA mimics that can specifically inhibit gene expression at the translational level by ribosomal steric hindrance. They bind to their mRNA targets by Watson-Crick base pairing and are resistant to degradation by both nucleases and proteases. A 25-mer phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMO) and a 13-mer polyamide (peptide) nucleic acid (PNA) were designed to target mRNA (positions -4 to +21, and –17 to –5, respectively) close to the translational initiation site of the extended-spectrum β-lactamase resistance genes of CTX-M group 1. These antisense oligonucleotides were found to inhibit β-lactamase activity by up to 96% in a cell-free translation-transcription coupled system using an expression vector carrying a blaCTX-M-15 gene cloned from a clinical isolate. Despite evidence for up-regulation of CTX-M gene expression, they were both found to significantly restore sensitivity to cefotaxime (CTX) in E. coli AS19, an atypical cell wall permeable mutant, in a dose dependant manner (0-40 nM). The PMO and PNA were covalently bound to the cell penetrating peptide (CPP; (KFF)3K) and both significantly (P < 0.05) increased sensitivity to CTX in a dose dependent manner (0-40 nM) in field and clinical isolates harboring CTX-M group 1 β-lactamases. Antisense oligonucleotides targeted to the translational initiation site and Shine-Dalgarno region of blaCTX-M-15 inhibited gene expression, and when conjugated to a cell penetrating delivery vehicle, partially restored antibiotic sensitivity to both field and clinical isolates.
PMCID: PMC4805641  PMID: 27047482
CTX-M; ESBL; translational inhibition; E. coli; antisense oligonucleotides; PMO; PNA
11.  Improved cell-penetrating peptide–PNA conjugates for splicing redirection in HeLa cells and exon skipping in mdx mouse muscle 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(20):6418-6428.
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 ∼3-fold higher numbers of dystrophin-positive fibres compared to naked PNADMD or (R-Ahx-R)4-PNADMD.
PMCID: PMC2582604  PMID: 18842625
12.  Impact of different cell penetrating peptides on the efficacy of antisense therapeutics for targeting intracellular pathogens 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:20832.
There is a pressing need for novel and innovative therapeutic strategies to address infections caused by intracellular pathogens. Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) present a novel method to target intracellular pathogens due to their unique mechanism of action and their ability to be conjugated to cell penetrating peptides (CPP) to overcome challenging delivery barriers. In this study, we targeted the RNA polymerase α subunit (rpoA) using a PNA that was covalently conjugated to five different CPPs. Changing the conjugated CPP resulted in a pronounced improvement in the antibacterial activity observed against Listeria monocytogenes in vitro, in cell culture, and in a Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) infection model. Additionally, a time-kill assay revealed three conjugated CPPs rapidly kill Listeria within 20 minutes without disrupting the bacterial cell membrane. Moreover, rpoA gene silencing resulted in suppression of its message as well as reduced expression of other critical virulence genes (Listeriolysin O, and two phospholipases plcA and plcB) in a concentration-dependent manner. Furthermore, PNA-inhibition of bacterial protein synthesis was selective and did not adversely affect mitochondrial protein synthesis. This study provides a foundation for improving and developing PNAs conjugated to CPPs to better target intracellular pathogens.
PMCID: PMC4748415  PMID: 26860980
13.  Interference of ribosomal frameshifting by antisense peptide nucleic acids suppresses SARS coronavirus replication 
Antiviral research  2011;91(1):1-10.
The programmed −1 ribosomal frameshifting (−1 PRF) utilized by eukaryotic RNA viruses plays a crucial role for the controlled, limited synthesis of viral RNA replicase polyproteins required for genome replication. The viral RNA replicase polyproteins of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) are encoded by the two overlapping open reading frames 1a and 1b, which are connected by a −1 PRF signal. We evaluated the antiviral effects of antisense peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) targeting a highly conserved RNA sequence on the – PRF signal. The ribosomal frameshifting was inhibited by the PNA, which bound sequence-specifically a pseudoknot structure in the −1 PRF signal, in cell lines as assessed using a dual luciferase-based reporter plasmid containing the −1 PRF signal. Treatment of cells, which were transfected with a SARS-CoV-replicon expressing firefly luciferase, with the PNA fused to a cell-penetrating peptide (CPP) resulted in suppression of the replication of the SARS-CoV replicon, with a 50% inhibitory concentration of 4.4 μM. There was no induction of type I interferon responses by PNA treatment, suggesting that the effect of PNA is not due to innate immune responses. Our results demonstrate that −1 PRF, critical for SARS-CoV viral replication, can be inhibited by CPP-PNA, providing an effective antisense strategy for blocking −1 PRF signals.
PMCID: PMC4728714  PMID: 21549154
SARS-CoV; Frameshifting; Peptide nucleic acids; RNA replication
14.  Delivery of Antisense Peptide Nucleic Acids to Cells by Conjugation with Small Arginine-Rich Cell-Penetrating Peptide (R/W)9 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104999.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are very attractive antisense and antigene agents, but these molecules are not passively taken into cells. Here, using a functional cell assay and fluorescent-based methods, we investigated cell uptake and antisense activity of a tridecamer PNA that targets the HIV-1 polypurine tract sequence delivered using the arginine-rich (R/W)9 peptide (RRWWRRWRR). At micromolar concentrations, without use of any transfection agents, almost 80% inhibition of the target gene expression was obtained with the conjugate in the presence of the endosomolytic agent chloroquine. We show that chloroquine not only induced escape from endosomes but also enhanced the cellular uptake of the conjugate. Mechanistic studies revealed that (R/W)9-PNA conjugates were internalized via pinocytosis. Replacement of arginines with lysines reduced the uptake of the conjugate by six-fold, resulting in the abolition of intracellular target inhibition. Our results show that the arginines play a crucial role in the conjugate uptake and antisense activity. To determine whether specificity of the interactions of arginines with cell surface proteoglycans result in the internalization, we used flow cytometry to examine uptake of arginine- and lysine-rich conjugates in wild-type CHO-K1 and proteoglycan-deficient A745 cells. The uptake of both conjugates was decreased by four fold in CHO-745 cells; therefore proteoglycans promote internalization of cationic peptides, irrespective of the chemical nature of their positive charges. Our results show that arginine-rich cell-penetrating peptides, especially (R/W)9, are a promising tool for PNA internalization.
PMCID: PMC4134252  PMID: 25127364
15.  Phospholipid conjugate for intracellular delivery of peptide nucleic acids 
Bioconjugate chemistry  2009;20(9):1729-1736.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) have a number of attractive features that have made them an ideal choice for antisense and antigene-based tools, probes and drugs, but their poor membrane permeability has limited their application as therapeutic or diagnostic agents. Herein we report a general method for the synthesis of phospholipid-PNAs (LP-PNAs), and compare the effect of non-cleavable lipids and bioreductively cleavable lipids (L and LSS) and phospholipid (LP) on the splice-correcting bioactivity of a PNA bearing the cell penetrating Arg9 group (PNA-R9). While the three constructs show similar and increasing bioactivity at 1–3 μM, the activity of LP-PNA-R9 continues to increase from 4–6 μM while the activity of L-PNA-R9 remains constant and LSS-PNA-R9 decreases rapidly in parallel with their relative cytotoxicity. The activity of both LP-PNA-R9 and L-PNA-R9 were found to dramatically increase with chloroquine, as expected for an endocytotic entry mechanism. Both constructs were also found to have CMC values of 1.0 and 4.5 μM in 150 mM NaCl, pH 7 water, suggesting that micelle formation may play a hitherto unrecognized role in modulating toxicity and/or facilitating endocytosis.
PMCID: PMC2763590  PMID: 19678628
peptide nucleic acid; phospholipid; lipid; cell penetrating peptide; micelle; endocytosis; bioreductively cleavable
16.  Antiproliferative effect in chronic myeloid leukaemia cells by antisense peptide nucleic acids 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(17):3712-3721.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a synthetic DNA analogue that is resistant to nucleases and proteases and binds with exceptional affinity to RNA. Because of these properties PNA has the potential to become a powerful therapeutic agent to be used in vivo. Until now, however, the use of PNA in vivo has not been much investigated. Here, we have attempted to reduce the expression of the bcr/abl oncogene in chronic myeloid leukaemia KYO-1 cells using a 13mer PNA sequence (asPNA) designed to hybridise to the b2a2 junction of bcr/abl mRNA. To enhance cellular uptake asPNA was covalently linked to the basic peptide VKRKKKP (NLS-asPNA). Moreover, to investigate the cellular uptake by confocal microscopy, both PNAs were linked by their N-terminus to fluorescein (FL). Studies of uptake, carried out at 4 and 37°C on living KYO-1 cells stained with hexidium iodide, showed that both NLS-asPNA-FL and asPNA-FL were taken up by the cells, through a receptor-independent mechanism. The intracellular amount of NLS-asPNA-FL was about two to three times higher than that of asPNA-FL. Using a semi-quantitative RT– PCR technique we found that 10 µM asPNA and NLS-asPNA reduced the level of b2a2 mRNA in KYO-1 cells to 20 ± 5% and 60 ± 10% of the control, respectively. Western blot analysis showed that asPNA promoted a significant inhibition of p210BCR/ABL protein: residual protein measured in cells exposed for 48 h to asPNA was ∼35% of the control. Additionally, asPNA impaired cell growth to 50 ± 5% of the control and inhibited completion of the cell cycle. In summary, these results demonstrate that a PNA 13mer is taken up by KYO-1 cells and is capable of producing a significant and specific down-regulation of the bcr/abl oncogene involved in leukaemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC137404  PMID: 12202756
17.  Cellular Uptakes, Biostabilities and Anti-miR-210 Activities of Chiral Arginine-PNAs in Leukaemic K562 Cells 
Chembiochem  2012;13(9):1327-1337.
A series of 18-mer peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) targeted against micro-RNA miR-210 was synthesised and tested in a cellular system. Unmodified PNAs, R8-conjugated PNAs and modified PNAs containing eight arginine residues on the backbone, either as C2-modified (R) or C5-modified (S) monomers, all with the same sequence, were compared. Two different models were used for the modified PNAs: one with alternated chiral and achiral monomers and one with a stretch of chiral monomers at the N terminus. The melting temperatures of these derivatives were found to be extremely high and 5 m urea was used to assess differences between the different structures. FACS analysis and qRT-PCR on K562 chronic myelogenous leukaemic cells indicated that arginine-conjugated and backbone-modified PNAs display good cellular uptake, with best performances for the C2-modified series. Resistance to enzymatic degradation was found to be higher for the backbone-modified PNAs, thus enhancing the advantage of using these derivatives rather than conjugated PNAs in the cells in serum, and this effect is magnified in the presence of peptidases such as trypsin. Inhibition of miR-210 activity led to changes in the erythroid differentiation pathway, which were more evident in mithramycin-treated cells. Interestingly, the anti-miR activities differed with use of different PNAs, thus suggesting a role of the substituents not only in the cellular uptake, but also in the mechanism of miR recognition and inactivation. This is the first report relating to the use of backbone-modified PNAs as anti-miR agents. The results clearly indicate that backbone-modified PNAs are good candidates for the development of very efficient drugs based on anti-miR activity, due to their enhanced bioavailabilities, and that overall anti-miR performance is a combination of cellular uptake and RNA binding.
PMCID: PMC3401907  PMID: 22639449
cell permeation; cellular differentiation; chiral PNA; microRNA; peptide nucleic acids; RNA
18.  Use of Peptide Nucleic Acids to Manipulate Gene Expression in the Malaria Parasite Plasmodium falciparum 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86802.
One of the major concerns in treating malaria by conventional small drug molecules is the rapid emergence of drug resistance. Specific silencing of essential genes by antisense oliogomers has been proposed as an alternative approach that may result in antimalarial activity which is not associated with drug resistance. In addition, such an approach could be an important biological tool for studying many genes' function by reverse genetics. Here we present a novel methodology of using peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) as a useful tool for gene silencing in Plasmodium falciparum. PNAs, designed as specific antisense molecules, were conjugated to a cell penetrating peptide (CPP); namely, octa-D-lysine via the C-terminus, to allow facile delivery through cell membranes. PNAs added to P. falciparum cultures were found exclusively in infected erythrocytes and were eventually localized in nuclei of the parasites at all stages of intra erythrocytic development. We show that these PNAs specifically down regulated both a stably expressed transgene as well as an endogenous essential gene, which significantly reduced parasites' viability. This study paves the way for a simple approach to silence a variety of P. falciparum genes as means of deciphering their function and potentially to develop highly specific and potent antimalarial agents.
PMCID: PMC3899306  PMID: 24466246
19.  Modulation of mdm2 pre-mRNA splicing by 9-aminoacridine-PNA (peptide nucleic acid) conjugates targeting intron-exon junctions 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:342.
Modulation of pre-mRNA splicing by antisense molecules is a promising mechanism of action for gene therapeutic drugs. In this study, we have examined the potential of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) 9-aminoacridine conjugates to modulate the pre-mRNA splicing of the mdm2 human cancer gene in JAR cells.
We screened 10 different 15 mer PNAs targeting intron2 at both the 5' - and the 3'-splice site for their effects on the splicing of mdm2 using RT-PCR analysis. We also tested a PNA (2512) targeting the 3'-splice site of intron3 with a complementarity of 4 bases to intron3 and 11 bases to exon4 for its splicing modulation effect. This PNA2512 was further tested for the effects on the mdm2 protein level as well as for inhibition of cell growth in combination with the DNA damaging agent camptothecin (CPT).
We show that several of these PNAs effectively inhibit the splicing thereby producing a larger mRNA still containing intron2, while skipping of exon3 was not observed by any of these PNAs. The most effective PNA (PNA2406) targeting the 3'-splice site of intron2 had a complementarity of 4 bases to intron2 and 11 bases to exon3. PNA (2512) targeting the 3'-splice site of intron3 induced both splicing inhibition (intron3 skipping) and skipping of exon4. Furthermore, treatment of JAR cells with this PNA resulted in a reduction in the level of MDM2 protein and a concomitant increase in the level of tumor suppressor p53. In addition, a combination of this PNA with CPT inhibited cell growth more than CPT alone.
We have identified several PNAs targeting the 5'- or 3'-splice sites in intron2 or the 3'-splice site of intron3 of mdm2 pre-mRNA which can inhibit splicing. Antisense targeting of splice junctions of mdm2 pre-mRNA may be a powerful method to evaluate the cellular function of MDM2 splice variants as well as a promising approach for discovery of mdm2 targeted anticancer drugs.
PMCID: PMC2910690  PMID: 20591158
20.  Efficient in vitro inhibition of HIV-1 gag reverse transcription by peptide nucleic acid (PNA) at minimal ratios of PNA/RNA. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(11):2167-2173.
We have tested the inhibitory potential of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) on in vitro reverse transcription of the HIV-1 gag gene. PNA was designed to target different regions of the HIV-1 gag gene and the effect on reverse transcription by HIV-1, MMLV and AMV reverse transcriptases (RTs) was investigated. We found that a bis-PNA (parallel antisense 10mer linked to antiparallel antisense 10mer) was superior to both the parallel antisense 10mer and antiparallel antisense 10mer in inhibiting reverse transcription of the gene, thus indicating triplex formation at the target sequence. A complete arrest of reverse transcription was obtained at approximately 6-fold molar excess of the bis-PNA with respect to the gag RNA. At this molar ratio we found no effect on in vitro translation of gag RNA. A 15mer duplex-forming PNA was also found to inhibit reverse transcription at very low molar ratios of PNA/ gag RNA. Specificity of the inhibition of reverse transcription by PNA was confirmed by RNA sequencing, which revealed that all tested RTs were stopped by the PNA/RNA complex at the predicted site. We propose that the effect of PNA is exclusively due to steric hindrance, as we found no signs of RNA degradation that would indicate PNA-mediated RNase H activation of the tested RTs. In conclusion, PNA appears to have a potential to become a specific and efficient inhibitor of reverse transcription in vivo , provided sufficient intracellular levels are achievable.
PMCID: PMC146729  PMID: 9153317
21.  Therapeutic Potential of Cell Penetrating Peptides (CPPs) and Cationic Polymers for Chronic Hepatitis B 
Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection remains a major health problem worldwide. Because current anti-HBV treatments are only virostatic, there is an urgent need for development of alternative antiviral approaches. In this context, cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) and cationic polymers, such as chitosan (CS), appear of particular interest as nonviral vectors due to their capacity to facilitate cellular delivery of bioactive cargoes including peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) or DNA vaccines. We have investigated the ability of a PNA conjugated to different CPPs to inhibit the replication of duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV), a reference model for human HBV infection. The in vivo administration of PNA-CPP conjugates to neonatal ducklings showed that they reached the liver and inhibited DHBV replication. Interestingly, our results indicated also that a modified CPP (CatLip) alone, in the absence of its PNA cargo, was able to drastically inhibit late stages of DHBV replication. In the mouse model, conjugation of HBV DNA vaccine to modified CS (Man-CS-Phe) improved cellular and humoral responses to plasmid-encoded antigen. Moreover, other systems for gene delivery were investigated including CPP-modified CS and cationic nanoparticles. The results showed that these nonviral vectors considerably increased plasmid DNA uptake and expression. Collectively promising results obtained in preclinical studies suggest the usefulness of these safe delivery systems for the development of novel therapeutics against chronic hepatitis B.
PMCID: PMC4691041  PMID: 26633356
hepatitis B; antiviral therapy; cell penetrating peptides (CPPs); chitosan (CS); catonic polymers; peptide nucleic acids (PNAs); hepatitis B virus (HBV); duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV); DNA vaccine; gene delivery; antigen (Ag)
22.  Nuclear antisense effects of neutral, anionic and cationic oligonucleotide analogs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(19):3965-3974.
The antisense activity of oligomers with 2′-O-methyl (2′-O-Me) phosphorothioate, 2′-O-methoxyethyl (2′-O-MOE) phosphorothioate, morpholino and peptide nucleic acid (PNA) backbones was investigated using a splicing assay in which the modified oligonucleotides blocked aberrant and restored correct splicing of modified enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) precursor to mRNA (pre-mRNA), generating properly translated EGFP. In this approach, antisense activity of each oligomer was directly proportional to up-regulation of the EGFP reporter. This provided a positive, quantitative readout for sequence-specific antisense effects of the oligomers in the nuclei of individual cells. Nuclear localization of fluorescent labeled oligomers confirmed validity of the functional assay. The results showed that the free uptake and the antisense efficacy of neutral morpholino derivatives and cationic PNA were much higher than that of negatively charged 2′-O-Me and 2′-O-MOE congeners. The effects of the PNA oligomers were observed to be dependent on the number of l-lysine (Lys) residues at the C-terminus. The experiments suggest that the PNA containing Lys was taken up by a mechanism similar to that of cell-penetrating homeodomain proteins and that the Lys tail enhanced intracellular accumulation of PNA oligomer without affecting its ability to reach and hybridize to the target sequence.
PMCID: PMC60237  PMID: 11574678
23.  In Situ Synthesis of Peptide Nucleic Acids in Porous Silicon for Drug Delivery and Biosensing 
Bioconjugate Chemistry  2014;25(7):1192-1197.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) are a unique class of synthetic molecules that have a peptide backbone and can hybridize with nucleic acids. Here, a versatile method has been developed for the automated, in situ synthesis of PNA from a porous silicon (PSi) substrate for applications in gene therapy and biosensing. Nondestructive optical measurements were performed to monitor single base additions of PNA initiated from (3-aminopropyl)triethoxysilane attached to the surface of PSi films, and mass spectrometry was conducted to verify synthesis of the desired sequence. Comparison of in situ synthesis to postsynthesis surface conjugation of the full PNA molecules showed that surface mediated, in situ PNA synthesis increased loading 8-fold. For therapeutic proof-of-concept, controlled PNA release from PSi films was characterized in phosphate buffered saline, and PSi nanoparticles fabricated from PSi films containing in situ grown PNA complementary to micro-RNA (miR) 122 generated significant anti-miR activity in a Huh7 psiCHECK-miR122 cell line. The applicability of this platform for biosensing was also demonstrated using optical measurements that indicated selective hybridization of complementary DNA target molecules to PNA synthesized in situ on PSi films. These collective data confirm that we have established a novel PNA–PSi platform with broad utility in drug delivery and biosensing.
PMCID: PMC4103755  PMID: 24949894
24.  Side chain modified peptide nucleic acids (PNA) for knock-down of six3 in medaka embryos 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:50.
Synthetic antisense molecules have an enormous potential for therapeutic applications in humans. The major aim of such strategies is to specifically interfere with gene function, thus modulating cellular pathways according to the therapeutic demands. Among the molecules which can block mRNA function in a sequence specific manner are peptide nucleic acids (PNA). They are highly stable and efficiently and selectively interact with RNA. However, some properties of non-modified aminoethyl glycine PNAs (aegPNA) hamper their in vivo applications.
We generated new backbone modifications of PNAs, which exhibit more hydrophilic properties. When we examined the activity and specificity of these novel phosphonic ester PNAs (pePNA) molecules in medaka (Oryzias latipes) embryos, high solubility and selective binding to mRNA was observed. In particular, mixing of the novel components with aegPNA components resulted in mixed PNAs with superior properties. Injection of mixed PNAs directed against the medaka six3 gene, which is important for eye and brain development, resulted in specific six3 phenotypes.
PNAs are well established as powerful antisense molecules. Modification of the backbone with phosphonic ester side chains further improves their properties and allows the efficient knock down of a single gene in fish embryos.
PMCID: PMC3469332  PMID: 22901024
PNA; Knock down; Medaka; Six3
25.  Targeting Listeria Monocytogenes rpoA and rpoD Genes Using Peptide Nucleic Acids 
Nucleic Acid Therapeutics  2013;23(5):363-367.
Treating intracellular pathogens remains a considerable medical challenge because of the inefficient intracellular delivery of antimicrobials and the frequent emergence of bacterial resistance to therapeutic agents deemed the drugs of last resort. We investigated the capability of antisense peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) conjugated to the (KFF)3K cell penetrating peptide to target RNA polymerase α subunit (rpoA) and RNA polymerase sigma 70 (rpoD) in the intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. The PNAs tested displayed a concentration dependent inhibition of L. monocytogenes growth in pure culture at the micromolar level and significantly reduced intracellular L. monocytogenes in infected cell culture and Caenorhabditis elegans whole animal model. In vitro, the combined PNAs treatment was synergistic resulting in a clearance of L. monocytogenes at 0.5× the individual PNA concentration. This study demonstrates the potential of anti-rpoA PNA as an antibacterial agent and will provide the basis for improving and developing these PNAs to better target intracellular pathogens like Listeria. This study also establishes C. elegans as a potential model for the screening of PNAs.
PMCID: PMC3760085  PMID: 23859300

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