HIV/AIDS remains a chronic and incurable disease, in spite of the notable successes of highly active antiretroviral therapy. Gene therapy offers the prospect of creating genetic resistance to HIV that supplants the need for antiviral drugs. In sight of this goal, a variety of anti-HIV genes have reached clinical testing, including gene-editing enzymes, protein-based inhibitors, and RNA-based therapeutics. Combinations of therapeutic genes against viral and host targets are designed to improve the overall antiviral potency and reduce the likelihood of viral resistance. In cell-based therapies, therapeutic genes are expressed in gene modified T lymphocytes or in hematopoietic stem cells that generate an HIV-resistant immune system. Such strategies must promote the selective proliferation of the transplanted cells and the prolonged expression of therapeutic genes. This review focuses on the current advances and limitations in genetic therapies against HIV, including the status of several recent and ongoing clinical studies.
HIV; gene therapy; HSCs
The transactivating response (TAR) element of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is the source of two functional microRNAs (miRNAs), miR-TAR-5p and miR-TAR-3p. The objective of this study was to characterize the post-transcriptional regulation of host messenger RNAs (mRNAs) relevant to HIV-1 pathogenesis by HIV-1 TAR miRNAs.
We demonstrated that TAR miRNAs derived from HIV-1 can incorporate into host effector Argonaute protein complexes, which is required if these miRNAs are to regulate host mRNA expression. Bioinformatic predictions and reporter gene activity assays identified regulatory elements complementary and responsive to miR-TAR-5p and miR-TAR-3p in the 3’ untranslated region (UTR) of several candidate genes involved in apoptosis and cell survival. These include Caspase 8, Aiolos, Ikaros and Nucleophosmin (NPM)/B23. Analyses of Jurkat cells that stably expressed HIV-1 TAR or contained a full-length latent HIV provirus suggested that HIV-1 TAR miRNAs could regulate the expression of genes in T cells that affect the balance between apoptosis and cell survival.
HIV-1 TAR miRNAs may contribute to the replication cycle and pathogenesis of HIV-1, by regulating host genes involved in the intricate balance between apoptosis and infected cell, to induce conditions that promote HIV-1 propagation and survival.
HIV-1; TAR microRNAs; Apoptosis; Caspase 8; Ikaros; Aiolos; Nucleophosmin (NPM)/B23
Syncytin-1 and envPb1 are two conserved envelope genes in the human genome encoded by single loci from the HERV-W and -Pb families, respectively. To characterize the role of these envelope proteins in cell–cell fusion, we have developed lentiviral vectors that express short hairpin RNAs for stable knockdown of syncytin-1 and envPb1. Analysis of heterotypic fusion activity between trophoblast-derived choriocarcinoma BeWo cells, in which syncytin-1 and envPb1 are specifically silenced, and endothelial cells demonstrated that both syncytin-1 and envPb1 are important to fusion. The ability to fuse cells makes syncytin-1 and envPb1 attractive candidate molecules in therapy against cancer. Our available vectors may help eventually to decipher roles for these genes in human health and/or disease.
Optimization of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) is important in RNA interference (RNAi)-based therapeutic development. Some specific chemical modifications can control which siRNA strand is selected by the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) for gene silencing. Intended strand selection will increase potency and reduce off-target effects from the unintended strand. Sometimes, blocking RISC loading of the unintended strand leads to improved intended strand-silencing potency, but the generality of this phenomenon is unclear. Specifically, unlocked nucleic acid (UNA) modification of the 5′ end of canonical (i.e., 19+2) siRNAs abrogates gene silencing of the modified strand, but the fate and potency of the unmodified strand has not been investigated. Here, we show that 5′ UNA-modified siRNAs show improved silencing potency of the unmodified strand. We harness this advantageous property in a therapeutic context, where a limited target region in a conserved HIV 5′ long terminal repeat U5 region would otherwise yield siRNAs with undesired strand selection properties and poor silencing. Applying 5′ UNA modification to the unintended sense (S) strand of these otherwise poorly targeted siRNAs dramatically improves on-target silencing by the intended antisense (AS) strand in pNL4-3.luciferase studies. This study highlights the utility of 5′ UNA siRNA modification in therapeutic contexts where siRNA sequence selection is constrained.
RNAi trigger; siRNA; strand selection; unlocked nucleic acid (UNA)
Many analytical techniques benefit greatly from the use of affinity reagent pairs, wherein each reagent recognizes a discrete binding site on a target. For example, antibody pairs have been widely used to dramatically increase the specificity of enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Nucleic acid-based aptamers offer many advantageous features relative to protein-based affinity reagents, including well-established chemical synthesis, thermostability and low production cost. However, the generation of suitable aptamer pairs has posed a significant challenge, and few such pairs have been reported to date. To address this important challenge, we present Multivalent Aptamer Isolation SELEX (MAI-SELEX), a technique designed for the efficient selection of aptamer pairs. In contrast to conventional selection methods, our method utilizes two selection modules to generate separate aptamer pools that recognize distinct binding sites on a single target. Using MAI-SELEX, we have isolated two groups of 2′-fluoro-modified RNA aptamers that specifically recognize the αV or β3 subunits of integrin αVβ3. These aptamers exhibit low nanomolar affinities for their targets, with minimal cross-reactivity to other closely related integrin homologs. Moreover, we show that these aptamer pairs do not interfere with each other’s binding, and effectively detect the target even in complex mixtures such as undiluted serum.
Recent advances of biological drugs have broadened the scope of therapeutic targets for a variety of human diseases. This holds true for dozens of RNA-based therapeutics currently under clinical investigation for diseases ranging from genetic disorders to HIV infection to various cancers. These emerging drugs, which include therapeutic ribozymes, aptamers, and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), demonstrate the unprecedented versatility of RNA. However, RNA is inherently unstable, potentially immunogenic, and typically requires a delivery vehicle for efficient transport to the targeted cells. These issues have hindered the clinical progress of some RNA-based drugs and have contributed to mixed results in clinical testing. Nevertheless, promising results from recent clinical trials suggest that these barriers may be overcome with improved synthetic delivery carriers and chemical modifications of the RNA therapeutics. This review focuses on the clinical results of siRNA, RNA aptamer, and ribozyme therapeutics and the prospects for future successes.
RNAi; siRNA; shRNA; miRNA; aptamer; ribozyme; clinical trial; delivery
Upon functional loss of insulin producing islet β-cells, some patients with diabetes become dependent on life-long insulin supplementation therapy. Bioengineering surrogate insulin producing cells is an alternative replacement strategy. We have developed a novel approach using short-activating RNA oligonucleotides to differentiate adult human CD34+ cells into insulin-secreting cells. By transfecting RNA to increase transcript levels of the master regulator of insulin biosynthesis, v-maf musculoaponeurotic fibrosarcoma oncogene homolog A (MafA), several pancreatic endodermal genes were upregulated during the differentiation procedure. These included Pancreatic and duodenal homeobox gene-1 (PDX1), Neurogenin 3, NeuroD, and NK6 homeobox 1 (NKx6-1). Differentiated CD34+ cells also expressed glucokinase, glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor (GLP1R), sulfonylurea receptor-1 (SUR1) and phogrin—all essential for glucose sensitivity and insulin secretion. The differentiated cells appropriately processed C-peptide and insulin in response to increasing glucose stimulation as shown by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis, western blotting, and immunofluorescence staining. We provide a new approach using short-activating RNA in developing insulin producing surrogate cells for treating diabetes.
RNA interference (RNAi) is an evolutionarily conserved, endogenous process for
post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. Although RNAi therapeutics have recently
progressed through the pipeline toward clinical trials, the application of these as ideal, clinical
therapeutics requires the development of safe and effective delivery systems. Inspired by the
immense progress with nanotechnology in drug delivery, efforts have been dedicated to the
development of nanoparticle-based RNAi delivery systems. For example, a precisely engineered,
multifunctional nanocarrier with combined passive and active targeting capabilities may address the
delivery challenges for the widespread use of RNAi as a therapy. Therefore, in this review, we
introduce the major hurdles in achieving efficient RNAi delivery and discuss the current advances in
applying nanotechnology-based delivery systems to overcome the delivery hurdles of RNAi
therapeutics. In particular, some representative examples of nanoparticle-based delivery
formulations for targeted RNAi therapeutics are highlighted.
small interfering (si)RNA; non-viral vector; multifunctional nanoparticle; targeting delivery; passive and active targeting
The canonical exogenous trigger of RNA interference (RNAi) in mammals is small interfering RNA (siRNA). One promising application of RNAi is siRNA-based therapeutics, and therefore the optimization of siRNA efficacy is an important consideration. To reduce unfavorable properties of canonical 21mer siRNAs, structural and chemical variations to canonical siRNA have been reported. Several of these siRNA variants demonstrate increased potency in downstream readout-based assays, but the molecular mechanism underlying the increased potency is not clear. Here, we tested the performance of canonical siRNAs and several sequence-matched variants in parallel in gene silencing, RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) assembly, stability and Argonaute (Ago) loading assays. The commonly used 19mer with two deoxythymidine overhangs (19merTT) variant performed similarly to canonical 21mer siRNA. A shorter 16mer variant (16merTT) did not perform comparably in our assays. Dicer substrate interfering RNA (dsiRNA) demonstrated better gene silencing by the guide strand (target complementary strand), better RISC assembly, persistence of the guide strand and relatively more loading of the guide strand into Ago. Hence, we demonstrate the advantageous properties of dsiRNAs at upstream, intermediate and downstream molecular steps of the RNAi pathway.
Aptamers are single-stranded nucleic acids that specifically recognize and bind tightly to their cognate targets due to their stable three-dimensional structure. Nucleic acid aptamers have been developed for various applications, including diagnostics, molecular imaging, biomarker discovery, target validation, therapeutics, and drug delivery. Due to their high specificity and binding affinity, aptamers directly block or interrupt the functions of target proteins making them promising therapeutic agents for the treatment of human maladies. Additionally, aptamers that bind to cell surface proteins are well suited for the targeted delivery of other therapeutics, such as conjugated small interfering RNAs (siRNA) that induce RNA interference (RNAi). Thus, aptamer-siRNA chimeras may offer dual-functions, in which the aptamer inhibits a receptor function, while the siRNA internalizes into the cell to target a specific mRNA. This review focuses on the current progress and therapeutic potential of RNA aptamers, including the use of cell-internalizing aptamers as cell-type specific delivery vehicles for targeted RNAi. In particular, we discuss emerging aptamer-based therapeutics that provide unique clinical opportunities for the treatment various cancers and neurological diseases.
RNA aptamers; systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment; RNA interference; small interfering RNA; targeted delivery
Through a mechanism known as RNA interference (RNAi), small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules can target complementary mRNA strands for degradation, thus specifically inhibiting gene expression. The ability of siRNAs to inhibit gene expression offers a mechanism that can be exploited for novel therapeutics. Indeed, over the past decade, at least 21 siRNA therapeutics have been developed for more than a dozen diseases, including various cancers, viruses, and genetic disorders. Like other biological drugs, RNAi-based therapeutics often require a delivery vehicle to transport them to the targeted cells. Thus, the clinical advancement of numerous siRNA drugs has relied on the development of siRNA carriers including biodegradable nanoparticles, lipids, bacteria, and attenuated viruses. Most therapies permit systemic delivery of the siRNA drug, while others use ex vivo delivery by autologous cell therapy. For some of the drugs, advancements in bioengineering and nanotechnology have led to improved control of delivery and release of the siRNA. Likewise, progress in molecular biology has allowed for improved design of the siRNA molecules. Here, we provide an overview of siRNA therapeutics in clinical trials, including their clinical progress, the challenges they have encountered, and the future they hold in the treatment of human diseases.
RNAi; siRNA; shRNA; clinical trial; delivery
The manifestation of RNA interference (RNAi)-based therapeutics lies in safe and successful delivery of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), the molecular entity that triggers and guides sequence-specific degradation of target mRNAs. Optimizing the chemistry and structure of siRNAs to achieve maximum efficacy is an important parameter in the development of siRNA therapeutics. The RNAi protein machinery can tolerate a variety of non-canonical modifications made to siRNAs, each of which imparts advantageous properties. Here, we review these modifications to siRNAs in pre-clinical and clinical studies.
One of the most formidable impediments to clinical translation of RNA interference (RNAi) is safe and effective delivery of the siRNAs to the desired target tissue at therapeutic doses. We previously described in vivo cell type-specific delivery of anti-HIV small-interfering RNAs (siRNAs) through covalent conjugation to an anti-gp120 aptamer. In order to improve the utility of aptamers as siRNA delivery vehicles, we chemically synthesized the gp120 aptamer with a 3′ 7-carbon linker (7C3), which in turn is attached to a 16-nucleotide 2′ OMe/2′ Fl GC-rich bridge sequence. This bridge facilitates the noncovalent binding and interchange of various siRNAs with the same aptamer. We show here that this aptamer-bridge-construct complexed with three different Dicer substrate siRNAs (DsiRNAs) results in effective delivery of the cocktail of DsiRNAs in vivo, resulting in knockdown of target mRNAs and potent inhibition of HIV-1 replication. Following cessation of the aptamer-siRNA cocktail treatment, HIV levels rebounded facilitating a follow-up treatment with the aptamer cocktail of DsiRNAs. This follow-up injection resulted in complete suppression of HIV-1 viral loads that extended several weeks beyond the final injection. Collectively, these data demonstrate a facile, targeted approach for combinatorial delivery of antiviral and host DsiRNAs for HIV-1 therapy in vivo.
Nucleic acid aptamers are in vitro-selected small, single-stranded DNA or RNA oligonucleotides that can specifically recognize their target on the basis of their unique 3-dimensional structures. Recent advances in the development of escort aptamers to deliver and enhance the efficacy of other therapeutic agents have drawn enthusiasm in exploiting cell-type-specific aptamers as drug delivery vehicles. This review mainly focuses on the recent developments of aptamer-mediated targeted delivery systems. We also place particular emphasis on aptamers evolved against cell membrane receptors and possibilities for translation to clinical applications.
Treatment and cure of human immunodeficiency virus-1(HIV-1) infection remains one of the greatest therapeutic challenges due to its persistent infection, which often leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Although it has been 28 years since the discovery of the virus, the development of an effective vaccine is still years away. Relatively newly discovered microRNAs (miRNA) are a family of small non-coding RNAs that can regulate gene expression primarily by binding to the 3′ untranslated region (UTR) of targeted transcripts. Understanding how HIV-1 infection affects the host miRNA pathway could generate new insights into the basic mechanisms underlying HIV-1-mediated pathologies and T-lymphocyte depletion. Here, we review literature related to the biogenesis of HIV-1 encoded miRNAs, cellular miRNAs that can directly target HIV-1 or essential cellular factors required for HIV-1 replication. We also discuss the feasibility of using miRNAs for HIV-1 therapy.
Cyclin D1 (CCND1) is a known cell cycle regulator whose overexpression is a hallmark of mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Although molecular techniques have unified the diagnostic approach to MCL, no therapeutic advances have been made to target this particular pathway. The significance of CCND1 in the pathogenesis and treatment of MCL has yet to be defined. We have taken advantage of RNA interference (RNAi) to downregulate CCND1 expression in two MCL cell lines (Granta-519 and Jeko-1) to investigate the cytotoxic effect of combining RNAi with conventional chemotherapeutic agents. We designed four siRNAs specific to CCND1, one specific to CCND2, and one dual-targeting siRNA that simultaneously downregulates CCND1 and CCND2. Etoposide and doxorubicin were used as chemotherapeutics in combination with the siRNAs. The transfected siRNAs in MCL cell lines triggered 40% to 60% reduction in target mRNA and protein levels. Importantly, the siRNA-mediated reduction in cyclins resulted in decreased IC50 values for both doxorubicin and etoposide. The combination of siRNA-mediated inhibition of the cyclins along with chemotherapeutic agents could potentially be used to lower the effective doses of the chemotherapeutic agents and reduce drug-related toxicities.
HIV-1 causes AIDS, a syndrome that affects millions of people globally. Existing HAART is efficient in slowing down disease progression but cannot eradicate the virus. Furthermore the severity of the side effects and the emergence of drug-resistant mutants call for better therapy. Gene therapy serves as an attractive alternative as it reconstitutes the immune system with HIV-resistant cells and could thereby provide a potential cure. The feasibility of this approach was first demonstrated with the ‘Berlin patient’, who was functionally cured from HIV/AIDS with undetectable HIV-1 viral load after transplantation of bone marrow harboring a naturally occurring CCR5 mutation that blocks viral entry. Here, we give an overview of the current status of HIV gene therapy and remaining challenges and obstacles.
antibody mimetic; dominant negative mutant; gene therapy; hematopoietic stem cell; HIV-1; ribozyme; RNA decoy; RNAi; sequence-specific nuclease; T cell
It is now recognized that small noncoding RNA sequences have the ability to mediate transcriptional activation of specific target genes in human cells. Using bioinformatics analysis and functional screening, we screened short-activating RNA (saRNA) oligonucleotides designed to target the promoter regions of the pluripotency reprogramming factors, Kruppel-like factor 4 (KLF4) and c-MYC. We identified KLF4 and c-MYC promoter-targeted saRNA sequences that consistently induced increases in their respective levels of nascent mRNA and protein expression in a time- and dose-dependent manner, as compared with scrambled sequence control oligonucleotides. The functional consequences of saRNA-induced activation of each targeted reprogramming factor were then characterized by comprehensively profiling changes in gene expression by microarray analysis, which revealed significant increases in mRNA levels of their respective downstream pathway genes. Notably, the microarray profile after saRNA-mediated induction of endogenous KLF4 and c-MYC showed similar gene expression patterns for stem cell- and cell cycle-related genes as compared with lentiviral vector-mediated overexpression of exogenous KLF4 and c-MYC transgenes, while divergent gene expression patterns common to viral vector-mediated transgene delivery were also noted. The use of promoter-targeted saRNAs for the activation of pluripotency reprogramming factors could have broad implications for stem cell research.
gene expression profiling; mesenchymal stem cells; pluripotency genes; RNA activation; saRNA
Exploiting the properties of stem cells by microRNA (miRNA) profiling offers an attractive approach to identify new regulators of stem cell fate. Although numerous miRNA have been screened from hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), the targets corresponding to many of these miRNA have not yet been fully elucidated. By miRNA profiling in a subpopulation of CD34+ cells isolated from peripheral blood, we have identified eight clusters of miRNA that were differentially expressed. Further analysis of one of the clusters by bioinformatics revealed that a miRNA, miR-181a*, which is highly expressed in the adherent CD34+ cells, affects the expression levels of Nanog, a stem cell surrogate marker. We show specifically by reporter assay and mutational analysis that miR-181a* targets a seedless 3′ compensatory site in the 3′UTR of Nanog and affects gene expression. We demonstrate that inhibiting miR-181a* upregulates the Nanog expression level, in addition to an increase in alkaline phosphatase activity. Our studies suggest that miR-181a* may be important in controlling the expression level of Nanog in a subpopulation of CD34+ cells.
CD34+; Nanog; miR-181a*; stem cells
Combinational therapy with small RNA inhibitory agents against multiple viral targets allows efficient inhibition of viral production by controlling gene expression at critical time points. Here we explore combinations of different classes of therapeutic anti-HIV-1 RNAs expressed from within the context of an intronic MCM7 (minichromosome maintenance complex component-7) platform that naturally harbors 3 microRNAs (miRNAs). We replaced the endogenous miRNAs with anti-HIV small RNAs, including small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting HIV-1 tat and rev messages that function to induce post-transcriptional gene silencing by the RNA interference pathway, a nucleolar-localizing RNA ribozyme that targets the conserved U5 region of HIV-1 transcripts for degradation, and finally nucleolar trans-activation response (TAR) and Rev-binding element (RBE) RNA decoys designed to sequester HIV-1 Tat and Rev proteins inside the nucleolus. We demonstrate the versatility of the MCM7 platform in expressing and efficiently processing the siRNAs as miRNA mimics along with nucleolar small RNAs. Furthermore, three of the combinatorial constructs tested potently suppressed viral replication during a 1-month HIV challenge, with greater than 5-log inhibition compared with untransduced, HIV-1-infected CEM T lymphocytes. One of the most effective constructs contains an anti-HIV siRNA combined with a nucleolar-localizing U5 ribozyme and TAR decoy. This represents the first efficacious example of combining Drosha-processed siRNAs with small nucleolar ribonucleoprotein (snoRNP)-processed nucleolar RNA chimeras from a single intron platform for effective inhibition of viral replication. Moreover, we demonstrated enrichment/selection for cells expressing levels of the antiviral RNAs that provide optimal inhibition under the selective pressure of HIV. The combinations of si/snoRNAs represent a new paradigm for combinatorial RNA-based gene therapy applications.
Chung and colleagues explore combinations of various classes of therapeutic anti-HIV-1 RNAs expressed from within the context of an intronic MCM7 (minichromosome maintenance complex component-7) platform. Endogenous MCM7 microRNAs (miRNAs) were replaced with various small RNA-inhibitory agents aimed at efficiently inhibiting viral production by controlling viral gene expression at critical time points. The MCM7 platform successfully allowed for expression and processing of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), miRNA mimics, and nucleolar small RNAs. Furthermore, three of the combinatorial constructs tested potently suppressed viral replication during a 1-month HIV challenge, with greater than 5-log inhibition compared with untransduced, HIV-1-infected cells.
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) treatment for HIV has changed the course of AIDS in societies where the drugs have been readily available. Despite the great success of HAART, drug resistance and toxicity issues still remain a concern for some individuals 1. Thus a number of investigators have been exploring other approaches for inhibiting HIV-1 replication. One of the most potent of these is the use of RNA interference. This review will focus solely on the use of RNA interference for the treatment of HIV-1 infection, including the problems, progress and future prospects.
The potent ability of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to inhibit the expression of complementary RNA transcripts is being exploited as a new class of therapeutics for diseases including HIV. However, efficient delivery of siRNAs remains a key obstacle to successful application. A targeted intracellular delivery approach for siRNAs to specific cell types is highly desirable. HIV-1 infection is initiated by the interactions between viral glycoprotein gp120 and cell surface receptor CD4, leading to fusion of the viral membrane with the target cell membrane. Once HIV infects a cell it produces gp120 which is displayed at the cell surface. We previously described a novel dual inhibitory anti-gp120 aptamer-siRNA chimera in which both the aptamer and the siRNA portions have potent anti-HIV activities. We also demonstrated that gp120 can be used for aptamer mediated delivery of anti-HIV siRNAs.
Here we report the design, construction and evaluation of chimerical RNA nanoparticles containing a HIV gp120-binding aptamer escorted by the pRNA of bacteriophage phi29 DNA packaging motor. We demonstrate that pRNA-aptamer chimeras specifically bind to and are internalized into cells expressing HIV gp120. Moreover, the pRNA-aptamer chimeras alone also provide HIV inhibitory function by blocking viral infectivity. The Ab′ pRNA-siRNA chimera with 2′-F modified pyrimidines in the sense strand not only improved the RNA stability in serum, but also was functionally processed by Dicer, resulting in specific target gene silencing. Therefore, this dual functional pRNA-aptamer not only represents a potential HIV-1 inhibitor, but also provides a cell-type specific siRNA delivery vehicle, showing promise for systemic anti-HIV therapy.
RNAi; Anti-gp120 aptamer; nanobiotechnology; bionanotechnology; nanotechnology; AIDS Treatment; viral DNA packaging; nanomotors
Until recently, progress in ex vivo gene therapy (GT) for human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) treatment has been incremental. Long-term HIV-1 remission in a patient who received a heterologous stem cell transplant for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-related lymphoma from a CCR5−/– donor, even after discontinuation of conventional therapy, has energized the field. We review the status of current approaches as well as future directions in the areas of therapeutic targets, combinatorial strategies, vector design, introduction of therapeutics into stem cells and enrichment/expansion of gene-modified cells. Finally, we discuss recent advances towards clinical application of HIV-1 GT.
25/27 Base duplex RNAs that are substrates for Dicer have been demonstrated to enhance
RNA interference (RNAi) potency and efficacy. Since the target sites are not always
equally susceptible to suppression by small interfering RNA (siRNA), not all 27-mer
duplexes that are processed into the corresponding conventional siRNAs show increased
potency. Thus random designing of Dicer-substrate siRNAs (DsiRNAs) may generate siRNAs
with poor RNAi due to unpredictable Dicer processing. Previous studies have demonstrated
that the 3′-overhang affects dicing cleavage site and the orientation of
Dicer entry. Moreover, an asymmetric 27-mer duplex having a 3′ two-nucleotide
overhang and 3′-DNA residues on the blunt end has been rationally designed to
obtain greater efficacy. This asymmetric structure directs dicing to predictably yield a
single primary cleavage product. In the present study, we analyzed the in vitro
and intracellular dicing patterns of chemically synthesized duplex RNAs with different
3′-overhangs. Consistent with previous studies, we observed that Dicer
preferentially processes these RNAs at a site 21–22 nucleotide (nt) from the
two-base 3′-overhangs. We also observed that the direction and ability of
human Dicer to generate siRNAs can be partially or completely blocked by DNA residues at
the 3′-termimi. To examine the effects of various 3′-end
modifications on Dicer processing in cells, we employed Illumina Deep sequencing analyses
to unravel the fates of the asymmetric 27-mer duplexes. To validate the strand selection
process and knockdown capabilities we also conducted dual-luciferase psiCHECK reporter
assays to monitor the RNAi potencies of both the “sense” (S) and
“antisense” (AS) strands derived from these DsiRNAs. Consistent with our
in vitro Dicer assays, the asymmetric duplexes were predictably processed into
desired primary cleavage products of 21–22-mers in cells. We also observed the
trimming of the 3′ end, especially when DNA residues were incorporated into
the overhangs and this trimming ultimately influenced the Dicer-cleavage site and RNAi
potency. Moreover, the observation that the most efficacious strand was the most abundant
revealed that the relative frequencies of each “S” or “AS” strand
are highly correlated with the silencing activity and strand selectivity. Collectively,
our data demonstrate that even though the only differences between a family of DsiRNAs was
the 3′ two-nuclotide overhang, dicing polarity and strand selectivity are
distinct depending upon the sequence and chemical nature of this overhang. Thus, it is
possible to predictably control dicing polarity and strand selectivity via simply
changing the 3′-end overhangs without altering the original duplex sequence.
These optimal design features of 3′-overhangs might provide a facile approach
for rationally designing highly potent 25/27-mer DsiRNAs.
RNA interference; Dicer-substrate siRNA (DsiRNA); Deep sequencing; 3′-overhang; Dicing polarity