We have explored the merits of a novel delivery strategy for the antisense oligomers based on cell penetrating peptide (CPP) conjugated to a carrier PNA with sequence complementary to part of the antisense oligomer. The effect of these carrier CPP-PNAs was evaluated by using antisense PNA targeting splicing correction of the mutated luciferase gene in the HeLa pLuc705 cell line, reporting cellular (nuclear) uptake of the antisense PNA via luciferase activity measurement. Carrier CPP-PNA constructs were studied in terms of construct modification (with octaarginine and/or decanoic acid) and carrier PNA length (to adjust binding affinity). In general, the carrier CPP-PNA constructs including the ones with decanoyl modification provided significant increase of the activity of unmodified antisense PNA as well as of antisense octaarginine-PNA conjugates. Antisense activity, and by inference cellular delivery, of unmodified antisense PNA was enhanced at least 20-fold at 6 μM upon the complexation with an equimolar amount of nonamer carrier decanoyl-CPP-PNA (Deca-cPNA1(9)-(D-Arg)8). The antisense activity of a CPP-PNA ((D-Arg)8-asPNA) (at 2 μM) was improved 6-fold and 8-fold by a heptamer carrier CPP-PNA (cPNA1(7)-(D-Arg)8) and hexamer carrier decanoyl-CPP-PNA (Deca-cPNA1(6)-(D-Arg)8), respectively, without showing significant additional cellular toxicity. Most interestingly, the activity reached the same level obtained by enhancement with endosomolytic chloroquine (CQ) treatment, suggesting that the carrier might facilitate endosomal escape. Furthermore, 50% downregulation of luciferase expression at 60 nM siRNA was obtained using this carrier CPP-PNA delivery strategy (with CQ co-treatment) for a single stranded antisense RNA targeting normal luciferase mRNA. These results indicated that CPP-PNA carriers may be used as effective cellular delivery vectors for different types of antisense oligomers and also allows use of combinations of (at least two) different CPP ligands.
antisense; carrier; cell penetrating peptide (CPP); cellular delivery; peptide nucleic acid (PNA); siRNA
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the aim of developing a general and straightforward procedure for the intracellular delivery of naked peptide nucleic acids (PNAs), we designed an intracellularly biodegradable triphenylphosphonium (TPP) cation based transporter system. In this system, TPP is linked, via a biolabile disulfide bridge, to an activated mercaptoethoxycarbonyl moiety, allowing its direct coupling to the N-terminal extremity of a free PNA through a carbamate bond. We found that such TPP-PNA-carbamate conjugates were highly stable in a cell culture medium containing fetal calf serum. In a glutathione-containing medium mimicking the cytosol, the conjugates were rapidly degraded into an unstable intermediate, which spontaneously decomposed, releasing the free PNA. Using a fluorescence-labeled PNA–TPP conjugate, we demonstrated that conjugates were taken up by cells. Efficient cellular uptake and release of the PNA into the cytosol was further confirmed by the anti-HIV activity measured for the TPP-conjugate of a 16-mer PNA targeting the TAR region of the HIV-1 genome. This conjugate exhibited an IC50 value of 1 μM, while the free 16-mer PNA did not inhibit replication of HIV in the same cellular test.
Cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) are short strands of arginine and/or lysine-rich peptides (<30 amino acids) that use their cationic nature for efficient intracellular accumulation. CPPs have been used for small interfering RNA (siRNA) delivery by direct complexation with the siRNA anionic phosphate backbone. During this process, however, part of the CPP cationic charges are neutralized, and the resultant loss of free positive charges may substantially compromise CPP’s internalization capabilities and eventually reduce siRNA delivery efficiency. The purpose of this study was to design a novel type of polyplex for siRNA delivery to overcome the CPP neutralization issue. This novel polyplex consists of three components: siRNA, 21mer oligolysine (K21) chemically modified to incorporate CPP conjugation sites (K21-PDP), and CPP delivery moiety. The siRNA was first neutralized by cationic charges of K21-PDP to form a polyplex. Then a cationic (hexa-arginine – R6) or an amphipathic (model amphipathic peptide – MAP) CPP was conjugated to the polyplex. Agarose gel shift assays indicated that the siRNA could be released from the polyplex after K21-PDP degradation or polyplex dilution. Furthermore, the total intracellular internalization of these two CPP-polyplexes was studied. Compared with R6-polyplex, MAP-polyplex exhibited 170 and 600-fold greater uptake of fluorescently-labeled siRNA at 1 and 6 h post-transfection, respectively. MAP-polyplex also exhibited comparable GFP silencing effects as Lipofectamine 2000 complex in Huh7.5 cells stably transfected to express GFP-LC3, whereas R6-polyplex did not demonstrate significant silencing activity. Further studies indicated that the K21-PDP/siRNA polyplex formation and conjugation of MAP to the polyplex were essential for siRNA polyplex uptake and gene silencing. MAP-polyplex was also shown to be unaffected by the presence of 10% FBS during transfection. In addition, MAP-polyplex uptake was dependent on vesicle formation and fusion due to 70 and 54% loss of uptake at 4 and 16°C, respectively, compared to incubation at 37°C. Therefore, the amphipathic CPP is a more suitable carrier moiety for delivery of siRNA polyplex.
Cell penetrating peptides; siRNA; siRNA delivery; oligoarginine; model amphipathic peptide; polyplex; membrane transduction peptides
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.
Gene delivery biomaterials need to be designed to efficiently achieve nuclear delivery of plasmid DNA. Polycations have been used to package DNA and other nucleic acids within sub-micron sized particles, offering protection from shear-induced or enzymatic degradation. However, cytotoxicity issues coupled with limited in vivo transfection efficiencies minimize the effectiveness of this approach. In an effort to improve upon existing technologies aimed at delivering nucleic acids, an alternative approach to DNA packaging was explored. Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) were used to directly functionalize DNA with poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) chains that provide a steric layer and inhibit multimolecular aggregation during complexation. DNA prePEGylation by this strategy was predicted to enable the formation of more homogeneous and efficiently packaged polyplexes.
In this work, DNA-PNA-peptide-PEG (DP3) conjugates were synthesized and self-assembled with 25 kDa poly(ethylenimine) (PEI). Complexes with small standard deviations and average diameters ranging from 30 – 50 nm were created, with minimal dependence of complex size on N:P ratio (PEI amines to DNA phosphates). Furthermore, PEI-DNA interactions were altered by the derivitization strategy, resulting in tighter compaction of the PEI-DP3 complexes in comparison with PEI-DNA complexes. Transfection experiments in Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells revealed comparable transfection efficiencies but reduced cytotoxicities of the PEI-DP3 complexes relative to PEI-DNA complexes. The enhanced cellular activities of the PEI-DP3 complexes were maintained following the removal of free PEI from the PEI-DP3 formulations, whereas the cellular activity of the conventional PEI-DNA formulations was reduced by free PEI removal. These findings suggest that DNA prePEGylation by the PNA-based strategy might provide a way to circumvent cytotoxicity and formulation issues related to the use of PEI for in vivo gene delivery.
Acute lung injury (ALI) is a complex syndrome with many aetiologies, resulting in the upregulation of inflammatory mediators in the host, followed by dyspnoea, hypoxemia and pulmonary oedema. A central mediator is inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) that drives the production of NO and continued inflammation. Thus, it is useful to have diagnostic and therapeutic agents for targeting iNOS expression. One general approach is to target the precursor iNOS mRNA with antisense nucleic acids. Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) have many advantages that make them an ideal platform for development of antisense theranostic agents. Their membrane impermeability, however, limits biological applications. Here, we report the preparation of an iNOS imaging probe through electrostatic complexation between a radiolabelled antisense PNA-YR9 · oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) hybrid and a cationic shell-cross-linked knedel-like nanoparticle (cSCK). The Y (tyrosine) residue was used for 123I radiolabelling, whereas the R9 (arginine9) peptide was included to facilitate cell exit of untargeted PNA. Complete binding of the antisense PNA-YR9 · ODN hybrid to the cSCK was achieved at an 8 : 1 cSCK amine to ODN phosphate (N/P) ratio by a gel retardation assay. The antisense PNA-YR9 · ODN · cSCK nanocomplexes efficiently entered RAW264.7 cells, whereas the PNA-YR9 · ODN alone was not taken up. Low concentrations of 123I-labelled antisense PNA-YR9 · ODN complexed with cSCK showed significantly higher retention of radioactivity when iNOS was induced in lipopolysaccharide+interferon-γ-activated RAW264.7 cells when compared with a mismatched PNA. Moreover, statistically, greater retention of radioactivity from the antisense complex was also observed in vivo in an iNOS-induced mouse lung after intratracheal administration of the nanocomplexes. This study demonstrates the specificity and sensitivity by which the radiolabelled nanocomplexes can detect iNOS mRNA in vitro and in vivo and their potential for early diagnosis of ALI.
cationic nanoparticles; acute lung injury; peptide nucleic acid; inducible nitric oxide synthase; radiolabelling; targeting
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.
The development of a new class of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs), i.e., gamma PNAs (γPNAs), creates the need for a general and effective method for its delivery into cells for regulating gene expression in mammalian cells. Here we report the antisense activity of a recently developed hydrophilic and biocompatible diethylene glycol (miniPEG)-based gamma peptide nucleic acid called MPγPNAs via its delivery by poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA)-based nanoparticle system. We show that MPγPNA oligomers designed to bind to the selective region of Chemokine Receptor 5 (CCR5) transcript, induce potent and sequence-specific antisense effects as compared with regular PNA oligomers. In addition, PLGA nanoparticle delivery of MPγPNAs is not toxic to the cells. The findings reported in this study provide a combination of γPNA technology and PLGA-based nanoparticle delivery method for regulating gene expression in live cells via the antisense mechanism.
CCR5; PEG; PNA; antisense; nanoparticle; γPNA
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.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are a nonionic DNA/RNA mimic that can recognize complementary sequences by Watson–Crick base–pairing. The neutral PNA backbone facilitates recognition of duplex DNA by strand invasion, suggesting that antigene PNAs (agPNAs) can be important tools for exploring the structure and function of chromosomal DNA inside cells. However, before agPNAs can enter wide use it will be necessary to develop straightforward strategies for introducing them into cells. Here we demonstrate that agPNA–peptide conjugates can target promoter DNA and block progesterone receptor (PR) gene expression inside cells. Thirty–six agPNA–peptide conjugates were synthesized and tested. We observed inhibition of gene expression using cationic peptides containing either arginine or lysine residues, with eight or more cationic amino acids being preferred. Both thirteen and nineteen base agPNA-peptide conjugates were inhibitory. Inhibition was observed in human cancer cell lines expressing either high or low levels of progesterone receptor. Modification of agPNA–peptide conjugates with hydrophobic amino acids or small molecule hydrophobic moities yielded improved potency. Inhibition by agPNAs did not require cationic lipid or any other additive, but adding agents to cell growth media that promote endosomal release caused modest increases in agPNA potency. These data demonstrate that chromosomal DNA is accessible to agPNA–peptide conjugates and that chemical modifications can improve potency.
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.
peptide nucleic acid; antisense; anthrax protective antigen
Gene correction activation effects of a small series of triplex forming peptide nucleic acid (PNA) covalently conjugated to the DNA interacting ligands psoralen, chlorambucil and camptothecin targeted proximal to a stop codon mutation in an EGFP reporter gene were studied. A 15-mer homopyrimidine PNA conjugated to the topoisomerase I inhibitor camptothecin was found to increase the frequency of repair domain mediated gene correctional events of the EGFP reporter in an in vitro HeLa cell nuclear extract assay, whereas PNA psoralen or chlorambucil conjugates both of which form covalent and also interstrand crosslinked adducts with dsDNA dramatically decreased the frequency of targeted repair/correction. The PNA conjugates were also studied in mammalian cell lines upon transfection of PNA bound EGFP reporter vector and scoring repair of the EGFP gene by FACS analysis of functional EGFP expression. Consistent with the extract experiments, treatment with adduct forming PNA conjugates (psoralen and chlorambucil) resulted in a decrease in background correction frequencies in transiently transfected cells, whereas unmodified PNA or the PNA-camptothecin conjugate had little or no effect. These results suggest that simple triplex forming PNAs have little effect on proximal gene correctional events whereas PNA conjugates capable of forming DNA adducts and interstrand crosslinks are strong inhibitors. Most interestingly the PNA conjugated to the topoisomerase inhibitor, camptothecin enhanced repair in nuclear extract. Thus the effects and use of camptothecin conjugates in gene targeted repair merit further studies.
PNA; triplex; gene correction; repair; DNA modification
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.
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.
cell permeation; cellular differentiation; chiral PNA; microRNA; peptide nucleic acids; RNA
The selective manipulation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) replication
and expression within mammalian cells has proven difficult. One
promising approach is to use peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers,
nucleic acid analogues that bind selectively to complementary DNA
or RNA sequences inhibiting replication and translation. However,
the potential of PNAs is restricted by the difficulties of delivering
them to mitochondria within cells. To overcome this problem we conjugated
a PNA 11mer to a lipophilic phosphonium cation. Such cations are
taken up by mitochondria through the lipid bilayer driven by the
membrane potential across the inner membrane. As anticipated, phosphonium–PNA
(ph–PNA) conjugates of 3.4–4 kDa were imported
into both isolated mitochondria and mitochondria within human cells
in culture. This was confirmed by using an ion-selective electrode
to measure uptake of the ph–PNA conjugates; by cell fractionation
in conjunction with immunoblotting; by confocal microscopy; by immunogold-electron microscopy;
and by crosslinking ph–PNA conjugates to mitochondrial
matrix proteins. In all cases dissipating the mitochondrial membrane
potential with an uncoupler prevented ph–PNA uptake. The ph–PNA
conjugate selectively inhibited the in vitro replication
of DNA containing the A8344G point mutation that causes the human
mtDNA disease ‘myoclonic epilepsy and ragged red fibres’ (MERRF) but
not the wild-type sequence that differs at a single nucleotide position.
Therefore these modified PNA oligomers retain their selective binding
to DNA and the lipophilic cation delivers them to mitochondria within
cells. When MERRF cells were incubated with the ph–PNA
conjugate the ratio of MERRF to wild-type mtDNA was unaffected,
even though the ph–PNA content of the mitochondria was
sufficient to inhibit MERRF mtDNA replication in a cell-free system.
This unexpected finding suggests that nucleic acid derivatives cannot
bind their complementary sequences during mtDNA replication. In
summary, we have developed a new strategy for targeting PNA oligomers
to mitochondria and used it to determine the effects of PNA on mutated
mtDNA replication in cells. This work presents new approaches for
the manipulation of mtDNA replication and expression, and will assist
in the development of therapies for mtDNA diseases.
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.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA); Brucella; Antibiotic resistance; Antisense; Murine macrophage
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.
There is mounting interest in developing antisense and siRNA oligonucleotides into therapeutic entities; however, this potential has been limited by poor access of oligonucleotides to their pharmacological targets within cells. Transfection reagents, such as cationic lipids and polymers, are commonly utilized to improve functional delivery of nucleic acids including oligonucleotides. Cellular entry of large plasmid DNA molecules with the assistance of these polycationic carriers is mediated by some form of endocytosis; however, the mechanism for delivery of small oligonucleotide molecules has not been well established. In this study, splice-shifting oligonucleotides have been formulated into cationic lipoplexes and polyplexes, and their internalization mechanisms have been examined by using pharmacological and genetic inhibitors of endocytosis. The results showed that intercellular distribution of the oligonucleotides to the nucleus governs their pharmacological response. A mechanistic study revealed that oligonucleotides delivered by lipoplexes enter the cells partially by membrane fusion and this mechanism accounts for the functional induction of the target gene. In contrast, polyplexes are internalized by unconventional endocytosis pathways that do not require dynamin or caveolin. These studies may help rationally design novel delivery systems with superior transfection efficiency but lower toxicity.
Cellular delivery; Endocytosis; Internalization; Antisense oligonucleotides; Splice-shifting oligonucleotides; Intracellular trafficking; Cationic lipoplexes; Cationic polyplexes
The antisense activity and gene specificity of two classes of oligonucleotides (ONs) were directly compared in a highly controlled assay. One class of ONs has been proposed to act by targeting the degradation of specific RNAs through an RNase H-mediated mechanism and consists of C-5 propynyl pyrimidine phosphorothioate ONs (propyne-S-ON). The second class of antisense agents has been proposed to function by sterically blocking target RNA formation, transport or translation and includes sugar modified (2'-O-allyl) ONs and peptide nucleic acids (PNAs). Using a CV-1 cell based microinjection assay, we targeted antisense agents representing both classes to various cloned sequences localized within the SV40 large T antigen RNA. We determined the propyne-S-ON was the most potent and gene-specific agent of the two classes which likely reflected its ability to allow RNase H cleavage of its target. The PNA oligomer inhibited T Ag expression via an antisense mechanism, but was less effective than the propyne-S-ON; the lack of potency may have been due in part to the PNAs slow kinetics of RNA association. Interestingly, unlike the 2'-O-allyl ON, the antisense activity of the PNA was not restricted to the 5' untranslated region of the T Ag RNA. Based on these findings we conclude that PNAs could be effective antisense agents with additional chemical modification that will lead to more rapid association with their RNA target.
Twenty years after gene therapy was introduced in the clinic, advances in the technique continue to garner headlines as successes pique the interest of clinicians, researchers, and the public. Gene therapy’s appeal stems from its potential to revolutionize modern medical therapeutics by offering solutions to a myriad of diseases by tailoring the treatment to a specific individual’s genetic code. Both viral and non-viral vectors have been used in the clinic, but the low transfection efficiencies when utilizing non-viral vectors have lead to an increased focus on engineering new gene delivery vectors. To address the challenges facing non-viral or synthetic vectors, specifically lipid-based carriers, we have focused on three main themes throughout our research: 1) that releasing the nucleic acid from the carrier will increase gene transfection; 2) that utilizing biologically inspired designs, such as DNA binding proteins, to create lipids with peptide-based headgroups will improve delivery; and 3) that mimicking the natural binding patterns observed within DNA, by using lipids having a nucleoside headgroup, will give unique supramolecular assembles with high transfection efficiency.
The results presented in this Account demonstrate that cellular uptake and transfection efficacy can be improved by engineering the chemical components of the lipid vectors to enhance nucleic acid binding and release kinetics. Specifically, our research has shown that the incorporation of a charge-reversal moiety to initiate change of the lipid from positive to negative net charge during the transfection process improves transfection. In addition, by varying the composition of the spacer (rigid, flexible, short, long, and aromatic) between the cationic headgroup and the hydrophobic chains, lipids can be tailored to interact with different nucleic acids (DNA, RNA, siRNA) and accordingly affect delivery, uptake outcomes, and transfection efficiency. Introduction of a peptide headgroup into the lipid provides a mechanism to affect the binding of the lipid to the nucleic acid, to influence the supramolecular lipoplex structure, and to enhance gene transfection activity. Lastly, we discuss the in-vitro successes we have had when using lipids possessing a nucleoside headgroup to create unique self-assembled structures and to deliver DNA to cells. In this Account, we state our hypotheses and design elements as well as describe the techniques that we have utilized in our research, in order to provide readers with the tools to characterize and engineer new vectors.
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.