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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen causing severe infections in hospital settings, especially with immune compromised patients, and the increasing prevalence of multidrug resistant strains urges search for new drugs with novel mechanisms of action. In this study we introduce antisense peptide–peptide nucleic acid (PNA) conjugates as antibacterial agents against P. aeruginosa. We have designed and optimized antisense peptide–PNA conjugates targeting the translation initiation region of the ftsZ gene (an essential bacterial gene involved in cell division) or the acpP gene (an essential bacterial gene involved in fatty acid synthesis) of P. aeruginosa (PA01) and characterized these compounds according to their antimicrobial activity and mode of action. Four antisense PNA oligomers conjugated to the H-(R-Ahx-R)4-Ahx-βala or the H-(R-Ahx)6-βala peptide exhibited complete growth inhibition of P. aeruginosa strains PA01, PA14, and LESB58 at 1–2 μM concentrations without any indication of bacterial membrane disruption (even at 20 μM), and resulted in specific reduction of the targeted mRNA levels. One of the four compounds showed clear bactericidal activity while the other significantly reduced bacterial survival. These results open the possibility of development of antisense antibacterials for treatment of Pseudomonas infections.
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
Peptide nucleic acids have a number of features that make them an ideal platform for the development of in vitro biological probes and tools. Unfortunately, their inability to pass through membranes has limited their in vivo application as diagnostic and therapeutic agents. Herein, we describe the development of cationic shell-crosslinked knedel-like (cSCK) nanoparticles as highly efficient vehicles for the delivery of PNAs into cells, either through electrostatic complexation with a PNA•ODN hybrid, or through a bioreductively cleavable disulfide linkage to a PNA. These delivery systems are better than the standard lipofectamine/ODN-mediated method and much better than the Arg9-mediated method for PNA delivery in HeLa cells, showing lower toxicity and higher bioactivity. The cSCKs were also found to facilitate both endocytosis and endosomal release of the PNAs, while themselves remaining trapped in the endosomes.
PNA; nanoparticle; cationic; shell-crosslinked; transfection; bioreductively cleavable linker; endosome; splice correction; cell penetrating; endosome disruption; cationic nanoparticle
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the major etiological agent of non-A, non-B hepatitis. Current therapies are not effective in all patients and can result in the generation of resistant mutants, leading to a need for new therapeutic options. HCV has an RNA genome that contains a well-defined and highly conserved secondary structure within the 5′-untranslated region. This structure is known as the internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) and is necessary for translation and viral replication. Here, we test the hypothesis that antisense peptide nucleic acid (PNA) and locked nucleic acid (LNA) oligomers can bind key IRES sequences and block translation. We used lipid-mediated transfections to introduce PNAs and LNAs into cells. Our data suggest that PNAs and LNAs can invade critical sequences within the HCV IRES and inhibit translation. Seventeen base PNA or LNA oligomers targeting different regions of the HCV IRES demonstrated a sequence-specific dose–response inhibition of translation with EC50 values of 50–150 nM. Inhibition was also achieved by PNAs ranging in length from 15 to 21 bases. IRES-directed inhibition of gene expression widens the range of mechanisms for antisense inhibition by PNAs and LNAs and may provide further therapeutic lead compounds for the treatment of HCV.
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.
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.
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.
peptide nucleic acid; phospholipid; lipid; cell penetrating peptide; micelle; endocytosis; bioreductively cleavable
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.
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
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.
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
This article describes the production and characterization of cationic submicron particles constituted with Eudragit RS 100, plus different cationic surfactants, such as dioctadecyl-dimethyl-ammonium bromide (DDAB18) and diisobutyphenoxyethyl-dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride (DEBDA), as a transport and delivery system for DNA/DNA and DNA/peptide nucleic acid (PNA) hybrids and PNA-DNA chimeras. Submicron particles could offer advantages over other delivery systems because they maintain unaltered physicochemical properties for long time periods, allowing long-term storage, and are suitable for industrial production. Submicron particles were characterized in terms of size, size distribution, morphology, and zeta potential. Moreover, the in vitro activity and ability of submicron particles to complex different types of nucleic acids were described. Finally, the ability of submicron particles to deliver functional genes to cells cultured in vitro was determined by a luciferase activity assay, demonstrating that submicron particles possess superior transfection efficiency with respect to commercially available, liposome-based transfection kits.
peptide nucleic acids; delivery; submicron particles
The potential of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) as specific inhibitors of translation has been studied. PNAs with a mixed purine/pyrimidine sequence form duplexes, while homopyrimidine PNAs form (PNA)2/RNA triplexes with complementary sequences on RNA. We show here that neither of these PNA/RNA structures are substrates for RNase H. Translation experiments in cell-free extracts showed that a 15mer duplex-forming PNA blocked translation in a dose-dependent manner when the target was 5'-proximal to the AUG start codon on the RNA, whereas similar 10-, 15- or 20mer PNAs had no effect when targeted towards sequences in the coding region. Triplex-forming 10mer PNAs were efficient and specific antisense agents with a target overlapping the AUG start codon and caused arrest of ribosome elongation with a target positioned in the coding region of the mRNA. Furthermore, translation could be blocked with a 6mer bisPNA or with a clamp PNA, forming partly a triplex, partly a duplex, with its target sequence in the coding region of the mRNA.
The potential use of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) as a sequence-specific inhibitor of RNA translation is investigated in this report. Three different regions of the PML/RARalpha oncogene, including two AUG potential start codons, were studied as targets of translation inhibition by antisense PNA in a cell-free system. A PNA targeted to the second AUG start codon, which was shown previously to be able to suppress in vitro translation from that site completely, was used alone or in combination with another PNA directed to the first AUG, and a third PNA within the 5'-untranslated region (5'-UTR) of mRNA. When used alone, no PNA was able to completely block the synthesis of the PML/RARalpha protein. The 5'-UTR PNA was the most potent translation inhibitor when used as single agent. However, a near complete (>/=90%) specific inhibition of the PML/RARalpha gene was obtained when the three PNAs were used in combination, thus obtaining an additive antisense effect.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) strand invasion offers an attractive alternative to DNA oligonucleotide directed triplex formation as a potential tool for gene inhibition. Peptide nucleic acid has been shown to interact with duplex DNA in a process which involves strand invasion of the duplex and binding of one of the DNA strands with two PNA oligomers. By blocking the interaction of a transcription factor with 5' regulatory sequences, PNA might specifically down-regulate gene activity. Here we demonstrate that PNA is capable of specifically blocking interaction of the transcription factor NF-kappa B with the IL2-R alpha NF kappa-B binding site in vitro. We further demonstrate that this interaction is sufficient to prevent transcriptional transactivation both in vitro and when transfected into cells in culture.
Sequence-selective recognition of double-stranded (ds) DNA by homopyrimidine peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers can occur by major groove triplex binding or by helix invasion via triplex P-loop formation. We have compared the binding of a decamer, a dodecamer and a pentadecamer thymine–cytosine homopyrimidine PNA oligomer to a sequence complementary homopurine target in duplex DNA using gel-shift and chemical probing analyses. We find that all three PNAs form stable triplex invasion complexes, and also conventional triplexes with the dsDNA target. Triplexes form with much faster kinetics than invasion complexes and prevail at lower PNA concentrations and at shorter incubation times. Furthermore, increasing the ionic strength strongly favour triplex formation over invasion as the latter is severely inhibited by cations. Whereas a single triplex invasion complex is formed with the decameric PNA, two structurally different target-specific invasion complexes were characterized for the dodecameric PNA and more than five for the pentadecameric PNA. Finally, it is shown that isolated triplex complexes can be converted to specific invasion complexes without dissociation of the Hoogsteen base-paired triplex PNA. These result demonstrate a clear example of a ‘triplex first’ mechanism for PNA helix invasion.
Sequence-specific DNA-binding molecules such as triple helix-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) provide a means for inducing site-specific mutagenesis and recombination at chromosomal sites in mammalian cells. However, the utility of TFOs is limited by the requirement for homopurine stretches in the target duplex DNA. Here, we report the use of pseudo-complementary peptide nucleic acids (pcPNAs) for intracellular gene targeting at mixed sequence sites. Due to steric hindrance, pcPNAs are unable to form pcPNA–pcPNA duplexes but can bind to complementary DNA sequences by Watson–Crick pairing via double duplex-invasion complex formation. We show that psoralen-conjugated pcPNAs can deliver site-specific photoadducts and mediate targeted gene modification within both episomal and chromosomal DNA in mammalian cells without detectable off-target effects. Most of the induced psoralen-pcPNA mutations were single-base substitutions and deletions at the predicted pcPNA-binding sites. The pcPNA-directed mutagenesis was found to be dependent on PNA concentration and UVA dose and required matched pairs of pcPNAs. Neither of the individual pcPNAs alone had any effect nor did complementary PNA pairs of the same sequence. These results identify pcPNAs as new tools for site-specific gene modification in mammalian cells without purine sequence restriction, thereby providing a general strategy for designing gene targeting molecules.
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.