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1.  Antisense-based therapy for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2012;199(1):21-25.
One of the greatest thrills a biomedical researcher may experience is seeing the product of many years of dedicated effort finally make its way to the patient. As a team, we have worked for the past eight years to discover a drug that could treat a devastating childhood neuromuscular disease, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Here, we describe the journey that has led to a promising drug based on the biology underlying the disease.
PMCID: PMC3461520  PMID: 23027901
2.  Targeting nuclear RNA for in vivo correction of myotonic dystrophy 
Nature  2012;488(7409):111-115.
Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) hold promise for gene-specific knockdown in diseases that involve RNA or protein gain-of-function. In the hereditary degenerative disease myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), transcripts from the mutant allele contain an expanded CUG repeat1–3 and are retained in the nucleus4, 5. The mutant RNA exerts a toxic gain-of-function6, making it an appropriate target for therapeutic ASOs. However, despite improvements in ASO chemistry and design, systemic use of ASOs is limited because uptake in many tissues, including skeletal and cardiac muscle, is not sufficient to silence target mRNAs7, 8. Here we show that nuclear-retained transcripts containing expanded CUG (CUGexp) repeats are extraordinarily sensitive to antisense silencing. In a transgenic mouse model of DM1, systemic administration of ASOs caused a rapid knockdown of CUGexp RNA in skeletal muscle, correcting the physiological, histopathologic, and transcriptomic features of the disease. The effect was sustained for up to one year after treatment was discontinued. Systemically administered ASOs were also effective for muscle knockdown of Malat-1, a long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) that is retained in the nucleus9. These results provide a general strategy to correct RNA gain-of-function and modulate the expression of expanded repeats, lncRNAs, and other transcripts with prolonged nuclear residence.
PMCID: PMC4221572  PMID: 22859208
3.  Allele-Specific Suppression of Mutant Huntingtin Using Antisense Oligonucleotides: Providing a Therapeutic Option for All Huntington Disease Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107434.
Huntington disease (HD) is an inherited, fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the huntingtin gene. The mutant protein causes neuronal dysfunction and degeneration resulting in motor dysfunction, cognitive decline, and psychiatric disturbances. Currently, there is no disease altering treatment, and symptomatic therapy has limited benefit. The pathogenesis of HD is complicated and multiple pathways are compromised. Addressing the problem at its genetic root by suppressing mutant huntingtin expression is a promising therapeutic strategy for HD. We have developed and evaluated antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) targeting single nucleotide polymorphisms that are significantly enriched on HD alleles (HD-SNPs). We describe our structure-activity relationship studies for ASO design and find that adjusting the SNP position within the gap, chemical modifications of the wings, and shortening the unmodified gap are critical for potent, specific, and well tolerated silencing of mutant huntingtin. Finally, we show that using two distinct ASO drugs targeting the two allelic variants of an HD-SNP could provide a therapeutic option for all persons with HD; allele-specifically for roughly half, and non-specifically for the remainder.
PMCID: PMC4160241  PMID: 25207939
4.  The Nuclear-Retained Noncoding RNA MALAT1 Regulates Alternative Splicing by Modulating SR Splicing Factor Phosphorylation 
Molecular cell  2010;39(6):925-938.
Alternative splicing (AS) of pre-mRNA is utilized by higher eukaryotes to achieve increased transcriptome and proteomic complexity. The serine/arginine (SR) splicing factors regulate tissue- or cell-type-specific AS in a concentration- and phosphorylation-dependent manner. However, the mechanisms that modulate the cellular levels of active SR proteins remain to be elucidated. In the present study, we provide evidence for a role for the long nuclear-retained regulatory RNA (nrRNA), MALAT1 in AS regulation. MALAT1 interacts with SR proteins and influences the distribution of these and other splicing factors in nuclear speckle domains. Depletion of MALAT1 or overexpression of an SR protein changes the AS of a similar set of endogenous pre-mRNAs. Furthermore, MALAT1 regulates cellular levels of phosphorylated forms of SR proteins. Taken together, our results suggest that MALAT1 regulates AS by modulating the levels of active SR proteins. Our results further highlight the role for an nrRNA in the regulation of gene expression.
PMCID: PMC4158944  PMID: 20797886
5.  RNA Toxicity from the ALS/FTD C9ORF72 Expansion Is Mitigated by Antisense Intervention 
Neuron  2013;80(2):415-428.
A hexanucleotide GGGGCC repeat expansion in the noncoding region of the C9ORF72 gene is the most common genetic abnormality in familial and sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). The function of the C9ORF72 protein is unknown, as is the mechanism by which the repeat expansion could cause disease. Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-differentiated neurons from C9ORF72 ALS patients revealed disease-specific (1) intranuclear GGGGCCexp RNA foci, (2) dysregulated gene expression, (3) sequestration of GGGGCCexp RNA binding protein ADARB2, and (4) susceptibility to excitotoxicity. These pathological and pathogenic characteristics were confirmed in ALS brain and were mitigated with antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) therapeutics to the C9ORF72 transcript or repeat expansion despite the presence of repeat-associated non-ATG translation (RAN) products. These data indicate a toxic RNA gain-of-function mechanism as a cause of C9ORF72 ALS and provide candidate antisense therapeutics and candidate human pharmacodynamic markers for therapy.
PMCID: PMC4098943  PMID: 24139042
6.  Nonsense-mediated decay as a terminating mechanism for antisense oligonucleotides 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(9):5871-5879.
Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) are synthetic oligonucleotides that alter expression of disease-associated transcripts via Watson–Crick hybridization. ASOs that function through RNase H or the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) result in enzymatic degradation of target RNA. ASOs designed to sterically block access of proteins to the RNA modulate mRNA metabolism but do not typically cause degradation. Here, we rationally design steric blocking ASOs to promote mRNA reduction and characterize the terminating mechanism. Transfection of ASOs complementary to constitutive exons in STAT3 and Sod1 results in greater than 70% reduction of mRNA and protein. The ASOs promote aberrant exon skipping and generation of premature termination codon (PTC)-containing mRNAs. We inhibit the nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) pathway and show that the PTC-containing mRNAs are recognized by the UPF1 ATPase, cleaved by the SMG6 endonuclease and degraded by the XRN1 cytoplasmic exonuclease. NMD surveillance, however, does not entirely explain the mechanism of decreased STAT3 expression. In addition to exon skipping, ASO treatment causes intron retention and reduction of chromatin-associated STAT3 mRNA. The application of steric blocking ASOs to promote RNA degradation allows one to explore more nucleotide modifications than tolerated by RNase H or RISC-dependent ASOs, with the goal of improving ASO drug properties.
PMCID: PMC4027159  PMID: 24589581
7.  Antisense Reduction of Tau in Adult Mice Protects against Seizures 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(31):12887-12897.
Tau, a microtubule-associated protein, is implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) in regard to both neurofibrillary tangle formation and neuronal network hyperexcitability. The genetic ablation of tau substantially reduces hyperexcitability in AD mouse lines, induced seizure models, and genetic in vivo models of epilepsy. These data demonstrate that tau is an important regulator of network excitability. However, developmental compensation in the genetic tau knock-out line may account for the protective effect against seizures. To test the efficacy of a tau reducing therapy for disorders with a detrimental hyperexcitability profile in adult animals, we identified antisense oligonucleotides that selectively decrease endogenous tau expression throughout the entire mouse CNS—brain and spinal cord tissue, interstitial fluid, and CSF—while having no effect on baseline motor or cognitive behavior. In two chemically induced seizure models, mice with reduced tau protein had less severe seizures than control mice. Total tau protein levels and seizure severity were highly correlated, such that those mice with the most severe seizures also had the highest levels of tau. Our results demonstrate that endogenous tau is integral for regulating neuronal hyperexcitability in adult animals and suggest that an antisense oligonucleotide reduction of tau could benefit those with epilepsy and perhaps other disorders associated with tau-mediated neuronal hyperexcitability.
PMCID: PMC3728694  PMID: 23904623
8.  Allele-selective inhibition of ataxin-3 (ATX3) expression by antisense oligomers and duplex RNAs 
Biological chemistry  2011;392(4):315-325.
Spinocerebellar ataxia-3 (SCA3) (also known as Machado Joseph Disease) is an incurable neurodegenerative disorder caused by expression of a mutant variant of ataxin-3 protein (ATX3). Inhibiting expression of ATX-3 would provide a therapeutic strategy, but indiscriminant inhibition of both wild-type and mutant ATX3 might lead to undesirable side-effects. An ideal silencing agent would block expression of mutant ATX3 while leaving expression of wild-type ATX3 intact. We have previously observed that peptide nucleic acid (PNA) conjugates targeting the expanded CAG repeat within ATX3 mRNA block expression of both alleles. We now identify additional PNAs capable of inhibiting ATX3 expression that vary in length and in the nature of the conjugated cation chain. We can also achieve potent and selective inhibition using duplex RNAs containing one or more mismatches relative to the CAG repeat. Anti-CAG antisense bridged nucleic acid (BNA) oligonucleotides that lack a cationic domain are potent inhibitors but are not allele-selective. Allele-selective inhibitors of ATX-3 expression provide insights into the mechanism of selectivity and promising lead compounds for further development and in vivo investigation.
PMCID: PMC3908450  PMID: 21294677
Ataxin-3; Spinocerebellar ataxia-3; allele-selective; siRNA; peptide nucleic acid
9.  Pathological impact of SMN2 mis-splicing in adult SMA mice 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;5(10):1586-1601.
Loss-of-function mutations in SMN1 cause spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a leading genetic cause of infant mortality. The related SMN2 gene expresses suboptimal levels of functional SMN protein, due to a splicing defect. Many SMA patients reach adulthood, and there is also adult-onset (type IV) SMA. There is currently no animal model for adult-onset SMA, and the tissue-specific pathogenesis of post-developmental SMN deficiency remains elusive. Here, we use an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) to exacerbate SMN2 mis-splicing. Intracerebroventricular ASO injection in adult SMN2-transgenic mice phenocopies key aspects of adult-onset SMA, including delayed-onset motor dysfunction and relevant histopathological features. SMN2 mis-splicing increases during late-stage disease, likely accelerating disease progression. Systemic ASO injection in adult mice causes peripheral SMN2 mis-splicing and affects prognosis, eliciting marked liver and heart pathologies, with decreased IGF1 levels. ASO dose–response and time-course studies suggest that only moderate SMN levels are required in the adult central nervous system, and treatment with a splicing-correcting ASO shows a broad therapeutic time window. We describe distinctive pathological features of adult-onset and early-onset SMA.
PMCID: PMC3799581  PMID: 24014320
adult-onset SMA; pathology; SMN2; spinal muscular atrophy; splicing
10.  Misregulated RNA processing in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain research  2012;1462:3-15.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research is undergoing an era of unprecedented discoveries with the identification of new genes as major genetic causes of this disease. These discoveries reinforce the genetic, clinical and pathological overlap between ALS and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Common causes of these diseases include mutations in the RNA/DNA-binding proteins, TDP-43 and FUS/TLS and most recently, hexanucleotide expansions in the C9orf72 gene, discoveries that highlight the overlapping pathogenic mechanisms that trigger ALS and FTLD. TDP-43 and FUS/TLS, both of which participate in several steps of RNA processing, are abnormally aggregated and mislocalized in ALS and FTLD, while the expansion in the C9orf72 pre-mRNA strongly suggests sequestration of one or more RNA binding proteins in pathologic RNA foci. Hence, ALS and FTLD converge in pathogenic pathways disrupting the regulation of RNA processing. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled RNA-Binding Proteins.
PMCID: PMC3707312  PMID: 22444279
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Frontotemporal dementia; TDP-43; FUS/TLS; C9orf72; RNA processing
11.  Sustained therapeutic reversal of Huntington’s disease by transient repression of huntingtin synthesis 
Neuron  2012;74(6):1031-1044.
The primary cause of Huntington’s disease (HD) is expression of huntingtin with a polyglutamine expansion. Despite an absence of consensus on the mechanism(s) of toxicity, diminishing the synthesis of mutant huntingtin will abate toxicity if delivered to the key affected cells. With antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) that catalyze RNase H-mediated degradation of huntingtin mRNA, we demonstrate that transient infusion into the cerebral spinal fluid of symptomatic HD mouse models not only delays disease progression, but mediates a sustained reversal of disease phenotype that persists longer than the huntingtin knockdown. Reduction of wild type huntingtin, along with mutant huntingtin, produces the same sustained disease reversal. Similar ASO infusion into non-human primates is shown to effectively lower huntingtin in many brain regions targeted by HD pathology. Rather than requiring continuous treatment, our findings establish a therapeutic strategy for sustained HD disease reversal produced by transient ASO-mediated diminution of huntingtin synthesis.
PMCID: PMC3383626  PMID: 22726834
12.  Divergent roles of ALS-linked proteins FUS/TLS and TDP-43 intersect in processing long pre-mRNAs 
Nature neuroscience  2012;15(11):1488-1497.
FUS/TLS (fused in sarcoma/translocated in liposarcoma) and TDP-43 are integrally involved in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia. We found that FUS/TLS binds to RNAs from >5,500 genes in mouse and human brain, primarily through a GUGGU-binding motif. We identified a sawtooth-like binding pattern, consistent with co-transcriptional deposition of FUS/TLS. Depletion of FUS/TLS from the adult nervous system altered the levels or splicing of >950 mRNAs, most of which are distinct from RNAs dependent on TDP-43. Abundance of only 45 RNAs was reduced after depletion of either TDP-43 or FUS/TLS from mouse brain, but among these were mRNAs that were transcribed from genes with exceptionally long introns and that encode proteins that are essential for neuronal integrity. Expression levels of a subset of these were lowered after TDP-43 or FUS/TLS depletion in stem cell-derived human neurons and in TDP-43 aggregate–containing motor neurons in sporadic ALS, supporting a common loss-of-function pathway as one component underlying motor neuron death from misregulation of TDP-43 or FUS/TLS.
PMCID: PMC3586380  PMID: 23023293
13.  Manipulation of PK-M mutually exclusive alternative splicing by antisense oligonucleotides 
Open Biology  2012;2(10):120133.
Alternative splicing of the pyruvate kinase M gene involves a choice between mutually exclusive exons 9 and 10. Use of exon 10 to generate the M2 isoform is crucial for aerobic glycolysis (the Warburg effect) and tumour growth. We previously demonstrated that splicing enhancer elements that activate exon 10 are mainly found in exon 10 itself, and deleting or mutating these elements increases the inclusion of exon 9 in cancer cells. To systematically search for new enhancer elements in exon 10 and develop an effective pharmacological method to force a switch from PK-M2 to PK-M1, we carried out an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) screen. We found potent ASOs that target a novel enhancer in exon 10 and strongly switch the splicing of endogenous PK-M transcripts to include exon 9. We further show that the ASO-mediated switch in alternative splicing leads to apoptosis in glioblastoma cell lines, and this is caused by the downregulation of PK-M2, and not by the upregulation of PK-M1. These data highlight the potential of ASO-mediated inhibition of PK-M2 splicing as therapy for cancer.
PMCID: PMC3498831  PMID: 23155487
alternative splicing; antisense oligonucleotides; cancer
15.  Allele-Selective Inhibition of Mutant Huntingtin Expression with Antisense Oligonucleotides Targeting the Expanded CAG Repeat 
Biochemistry  2010;49(47):10166-10178.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a currently incurable neurodegenerative disease caused by the expansion of a CAG trinucleotide repeat within the huntingtin (HTT) gene. Therapeutic approaches include selectively inhibiting the expression of the mutated HTT allele while conserving function of the normal allele. We have evaluated a series of antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) targeted to the expanded CAG repeat within HTT mRNA for their ability to selectively inhibit expression of mutant HTT protein. Several ASOs incorporating a variety of modifications, including bridged nucleic acids and phosphorothioate internucleotide linkages, exhibited allele-selective silencing in patient-derived fibroblasts. Allele-selective ASOs did not affect the expression of other CAG repeat-containing genes and selectivity was observed in cell lines containing minimal CAG repeat lengths representative of most HD patients. Allele-selective ASOs left HTT mRNA intact and did not support ribonuclease H activity in vitro. We observed cooperative binding of multiple ASO molecules to CAG repeat-containing HTT mRNA transcripts in vitro. These results are consistent with a mechanism involving inhibition at the level of translation. ASOs targeted to the CAG repeat of HTT provide a starting point for the development of oligonucleotide-based therapeutics that can inhibit gene expression with allelic discrimination in patients with HD.
PMCID: PMC2991413  PMID: 21028906
Locked nucleic acid (LNA); allele-selective inhibition; Huntington's Disease; huntingtin; antisense oligonucleotide; CAG repeat; triplet repeat
16.  Long pre-mRNA depletion and RNA missplicing contribute to neuronal vulnerability from loss of TDP-43 
Nature neuroscience  2011;14(4):459-468.
Cross-linking and immunoprecipitation coupled with high-throughput sequencing was used to identify binding sites within 6,304 genes as the brain RNA targets for TDP-43, an RNA binding protein which when mutated causes Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Use of massively parallel sequencing and splicing-sensitive junction arrays revealed that levels of 601 mRNAs are changed (including Fus/Tls, progranulin, and other transcripts encoding neurodegenerative disease-associated proteins) and 965 altered splicing events are detected (including in sortilin, the receptor for progranulin), following depletion of TDP-43 from mouse adult brain with antisense oligonucleotides. RNAs whose levels are most depleted by reduction in TDP-43 are derived from genes with very long introns and which encode proteins involved in synaptic activity. Lastly, TDP-43 was found to auto-regulate its synthesis, in part by directly binding and enhancing splicing of an intron within the 3′ untranslated region of its own transcript, thereby triggering nonsense mediated RNA degradation. (147 words)
PMCID: PMC3094729  PMID: 21358643
17.  Antisense Oligonucleotides Delivered to the Mouse CNS Ameliorate Symptoms of Severe Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
Science translational medicine  2011;3(72):72ra18.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder caused by mutations in the SMN1 gene that result in a deficiency of SMN protein. One approach to treat SMA is to use antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) to redirect the splicing of a paralogous gene, SMN2, to boost production of functional SMN. Injection of a 2′-O-2-methoxyethyl–modified ASO (ASO-10-27) into the cerebral lateral ventricles of mice with a severe form of SMA resulted in splice-mediated increases in SMN protein and in the number of motor neurons in the spinal cord, which led to improvements in muscle physiology, motor function and survival. Intrathecal infusion of ASO-10-27 into cynomolgus monkeys delivered putative therapeutic levels of the oligonucleotide to all regions of the spinal cord. These data demonstrate that central nervous system–directed ASO therapy is efficacious and that intrathecal infusion may represent a practical route for delivering this therapeutic in the clinic.
PMCID: PMC3140425  PMID: 21368223
18.  Peptide Nucleic Acids Conjugated to Short Basic Peptides Show Improved Pharmacokinetics and Antisense Activity in Adipose Tissue 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2010;53(10):3919-3926.
A peptide nucleic acid (PNA) targeting a splice junction of the murine PTEN primary transcript was covalently conjugated to various basic peptides. When systemically administered to healthy mice, the conjugates displayed sequence-specific alteration of PTEN mRNA splicing as well as inhibition of full length PTEN protein expression. Correlating activity with drug concentration in various tissues indicated strong tissue-dependence with highest levels of activity observed in adipose tissue. While the presence of a peptide carrier was found to be crucial for efficient delivery to tissue, little difference was observed between the various peptides evaluated. A second PNA-conjugate targeting the murine insulin receptor primary transcript showed a similar activity profile suggesting that short basic peptides can generally be used to effectively deliver peptide nucleic acids to adipose tissue.
PMCID: PMC3072269  PMID: 20420385
19.  Mechanisms of single-stranded phosphorothioate modified antisense oligonucleotide accumulation in hepatocytes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(11):4795-4807.
Single-stranded antisense oligonucleotides (SSOs) are used to modulate the expression of genes in animal models and are being investigated as potential therapeutics. To better understand why synthetic SSOs accumulate in the same intracellular location as the target RNA, we have isolated a novel mouse hepatocellular SV40 large T-antigen carcinoma cell line, MHT that maintains the ability to efficiently take up SSOs over several years in culture. Sequence-specific antisense effects are demonstrated at low nanomolar concentrations. SSO accumulation into cells is both time and concentration dependent. At least two distinct cellular pathways are responsible for SSO accumulation in cells: a non-productive pathway resulting in accumulation in lysosomes, and a functional uptake pathway in which the SSO gains access to the targeted RNA. We demonstrate that functional uptake, as defined by a sequence-specific reduction in target mRNA, is inhibited by brefeldin A and chloroquine. Functional uptake is blocked by siRNA inhibitors of the adaptor protein AP2M1, but not by clathrin or caveolin. Furthermore, we document that treatment of mice with an AP2M1 siRNA blocks functional uptake into liver tissue. Functional uptake of SSO appears to be mediated by a novel clathrin- and caveolin-independent endocytotic process.
PMCID: PMC3113586  PMID: 21345934
20.  Activating the synthesis of progerin, the mutant prelamin A in Hutchinson–Gilford progeria syndrome, with antisense oligonucleotides 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(13):2462-2471.
Hutchinson–Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS) is caused by point mutations that increase utilization of an alternate splice donor site in exon 11 of LMNA (the gene encoding lamin C and prelamin A). The alternate splicing reduces transcripts for wild-type prelamin A and increases transcripts for a truncated prelamin A (progerin). Here, we show that antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) against exon 11 sequences downstream from the exon 11 splice donor site promote alternate splicing in both wild-type and HGPS fibroblasts, increasing the synthesis of progerin. Indeed, wild-type fibroblasts transfected with these ASOs exhibit progerin levels similar to (or greater than) those in fibroblasts from HGPS patients. This progerin was farnesylated, as judged by metabolic labeling studies. The synthesis of progerin in wild-type fibroblasts was accompanied by the same nuclear shape and gene-expression perturbations observed in HGPS fibroblasts. An ASO corresponding to the 5′ portion of intron 11 also promoted alternate splicing. In contrast, an ASO against exon 11 sequences 5′ to the alternate splice site reduced alternate splicing in HGPS cells and modestly lowered progerin levels. Thus, different ASOs can be used to increase or decrease ‘HGPS splicing’. ASOs represent a new and powerful tool for recreating HGPS pathophysiology in wild-type cells.
PMCID: PMC2694694  PMID: 19376814
21.  Potent inhibition of microRNA in vivo without degradation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(1):70-77.
Chemically modified antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) are widely used as a tool to functionalize microRNAs (miRNAs). Reduction of miRNA level after ASO inhibition is commonly reported to show efficacy. Whether this is the most relevant endpoint for measuring miRNA inhibition has not been adequately addressed in the field although it has important implications for evaluating miRNA targeting studies. Using a novel approach to quantitate miRNA levels in the presence of excess ASO, we have discovered that the outcome of miRNA inhibition can vary depending on the chemical modification of the ASO. Although some miRNA inhibitors cause a decrease in mature miRNA levels, we have identified a novel 2′-fluoro/2′-methoxyethyl modified ASO motif with dramatically improved in vivo potency which does not. These studies show there are multiple mechanisms of miRNA inhibition by ASOs and that evaluation of secondary endpoints is crucial for interpreting miRNA inhibition studies.
PMCID: PMC2615630  PMID: 19015151
22.  Enhancement of SMN2 Exon 7 Inclusion by Antisense Oligonucleotides Targeting the Exon 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(4):e73.
Several strategies have been pursued to increase the extent of exon 7 inclusion during splicing of SMN2 (survival of motor neuron 2) transcripts, for eventual therapeutic use in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic neuromuscular disease. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) that target an exon or its flanking splice sites usually promote exon skipping. Here we systematically tested a large number of ASOs with a 2′-O-methoxy-ethyl ribose (MOE) backbone that hybridize to different positions of SMN2 exon 7, and identified several that promote greater exon inclusion, others that promote exon skipping, and still others with complex effects on the accumulation of the two alternatively spliced products. This approach provides positional information about presumptive exonic elements or secondary structures with positive or negative effects on exon inclusion. The ASOs are effective not only in cell-free splicing assays, but also when transfected into cultured cells, where they affect splicing of endogenous SMN transcripts. The ASOs that promote exon 7 inclusion increase full-length SMN protein levels, demonstrating that they do not interfere with mRNA export or translation, despite hybridizing to an exon. Some of the ASOs we identified are sufficiently active to proceed with experiments in SMA mouse models.
Author Summary
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a severe genetic disease that causes motor-neuron degeneration. SMA patients lack a functional SMN1 (survival of motor neuron 1) gene, but they possess an intact SMN2 gene, which though nearly identical to SMN1, is only partially functional. The defect in SMN2 gene expression is at the level of pre-mRNA splicing (skipping of exon 7), and the presence of this gene in all SMA patients makes it an attractive target for potential therapy. Here we have surveyed a large number of antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) that are complementary to different regions of exon 7 in the SMN2 mRNA. A few of these ASOs are able to correct the pre-mRNA splicing defect, presumably because they bind to regions of exon 7 that form RNA structures, or provide protein-binding sites, that normally weaken the recognition of this exon by the splicing machinery in the cell nucleus. We describe optimal ASOs that promote correct expression of SMN2 mRNA and, therefore, normal SMN protein, in cultured cells from SMA patients. These ASOs can now be tested in mouse models of SMA, and may be useful for SMA therapy.
Mutations inSMN1 cause spinal muscular atrophy; a nearly identical gene is not functional, but becomes functional in vitro and in vivo after addition of antisense oligos.
PMCID: PMC1820610  PMID: 17355180
23.  Antisense oligonucleotides containing locked nucleic acid improve potency but cause significant hepatotoxicity in animals 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;35(2):687-700.
A series of antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) containing either 2′-O-methoxyethylribose (MOE) or locked nucleic acid (LNA) modifications were designed to investigate whether LNA antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) have the potential to improve upon MOE based ASO therapeutics. Some, but not all, LNA containing oligonucleotides increased potency for reducing target mRNA in mouse liver up to 5-fold relative to the corresponding MOE containing ASOs. However, they also showed profound hepatotoxicity as measured by serum transaminases, organ weights and body weights. This toxicity was evident for multiple sequences targeting three different biological targets, as well as in mismatch control sequences having no known mRNA targets. Histopathological evaluation of tissues from LNA treated animals confirmed the hepatocellular involvement. Toxicity was observed as early as 4 days after a single administration. In contrast, the corresponding MOE ASOs showed no evidence for toxicity while maintaining the ability to reduce target mRNA. These studies suggest that while LNA ASOs have the potential to improve potency, they impose a significant risk of hepatotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC1802611  PMID: 17182632
24.  Antisense oligonucleotide therapy for neurodegenerative disease 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2006;116(8):2290-2296.
Neurotoxicity from accumulation of misfolded/mutant proteins is thought to drive pathogenesis in neurodegenerative diseases. Since decreasing levels of proteins responsible for such accumulations is likely to ameliorate disease, a therapeutic strategy has been developed to downregulate almost any gene in the CNS. Modified antisense oligonucleotides, continuously infused intraventricularly, have been demonstrated to distribute widely throughout the CNS of rodents and primates, including the regions affected in the major neurodegenerative diseases. Using this route of administration, we found that antisense oligonucleotides to superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), one of the most abundant brain proteins, reduced both SOD1 protein and mRNA levels throughout the brain and spinal cord. Treatment initiated near onset significantly slowed disease progression in a model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) caused by a mutation in SOD1. This suggests that direct delivery of antisense oligonucleotides could be an effective, dosage-regulatable means of treating neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS, where appropriate target proteins are known.
PMCID: PMC1518790  PMID: 16878173
25.  Prelamin A and lamin A appear to be dispensable in the nuclear lamina 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2006;116(3):743-752.
Lamin A and lamin C, both products of Lmna, are key components of the nuclear lamina. In the mouse, a deficiency in both lamin A and lamin C leads to slow growth, muscle weakness, and death by 6 weeks of age. Fibroblasts deficient in lamins A and C contain misshapen and structurally weakened nuclei, and emerin is mislocalized away from the nuclear envelope. The physiologic rationale for the existence of the 2 different Lmna products lamin A and lamin C is unclear, although several reports have suggested that lamin A may have particularly important functions, for example in the targeting of emerin and lamin C to the nuclear envelope. Here we report the development of lamin C–only mice (Lmna+/+), which produce lamin C but no lamin A or prelamin A (the precursor to lamin A). Lmna+/+ mice were entirely healthy, and Lmna+/+ cells displayed normal emerin targeting and exhibited only very minimal alterations in nuclear shape and nuclear deformability. Thus, at least in the mouse, prelamin A and lamin A appear to be dispensable. Nevertheless, an accumulation of farnesyl–prelamin A (as occurs with a deficiency in the prelamin A processing enzyme Zmpste24) caused dramatically misshapen nuclei and progeria-like disease phenotypes. The apparent dispensability of prelamin A suggested that lamin A–related progeroid syndromes might be treated with impunity by reducing prelamin A synthesis. Remarkably, the presence of a single LmnaLCO allele eliminated the nuclear shape abnormalities and progeria-like disease phenotypes in Zmpste24–/– mice. Moreover, treating Zmpste24–/– cells with a prelamin A–specific antisense oligonucleotide reduced prelamin A levels and significantly reduced the frequency of misshapen nuclei. These studies suggest a new therapeutic strategy for treating progeria and other lamin A diseases.
PMCID: PMC1386109  PMID: 16511604

Results 1-25 (30)