Pompe disease, also known as glycogen storage disease (GSD) type II, is caused by deficiency of lysosomal acid α-glucosidase (GAA). The resulting glycogen accumulation causes a spectrum of disease severity ranging from a rapidly progressive course that is typically fatal by 1 to 2 years of age to a slower progressive course that causes significant morbidity and early mortality in children and adults. The aim of this study is to better understand the biochemical consequences of glycogen accumulation in the Pompe mouse. We evaluated glycogen metabolism in heart, triceps, quadriceps, and liver from wild type and several strains of GAA−/− mice. Unexpectedly, we observed that lysosomal glycogen storage correlated with a robust increase in factors that normally promote glycogen biosynthesis. The GAA−/− mouse strains were found to have elevated glycogen synthase (GS), glycogenin, hexokinase, and glucose-6-phosphate (G-6-P, the allosteric activator of GS). Treating GAA−/− mice with recombinant human GAA (rhGAA) led to a dramatic reduction in the levels of glycogen, GS, glycogenin, and G-6-P. Lysosomal glycogen storage also correlated with a dysregulation of phosphorylase, which normally breaks down cytoplasmic glycogen. Analysis of phosphorylase activity confirmed a previous report that, although phosphorylase protein levels are identical in muscle lysates from wild type and GAA−/− mice, phosphorylase activity is suppressed in the GAA−/− mice in the absence of AMP. This reduction in phosphorylase activity likely exacerbates lysosomal glycogen accumulation. If the dysregulation in glycogen metabolism observed in the mouse model of Pompe disease also occurs in Pompe patients, it may contribute to the observed broad spectrum of disease severity.
Neuropathic Gaucher disease (nGD), also known as type 2 or type 3 Gaucher disease, is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme glucocerebrosidase (GC). This deficiency impairs the degradation of glucosylceramide (GluCer) and glucosylsphingosine (GluSph), leading to their accumulation in the brains of patients and mouse models of the disease. These accumulated substrates have been thought to cause the severe neuropathology and early death observed in patients with nGD and mouse models. Substrate accumulation is evident at birth in both nGD mouse models and humans affected with the most severe type of the disease. Current treatment of non-nGD relies on the intravenous delivery of recombinant human glucocerebrosidase to replace the missing enzyme or the administration of glucosylceramide synthase inhibitors to attenuate GluCer production. However, the currently approved drugs that use these mechanisms do not cross the blood brain barrier, and thus are not expected to provide a benefit for the neurological complications in nGD patients. Here we report the successful reduction of substrate accumulation and CNS pathology together with a significant increase in lifespan after systemic administration of a novel glucosylceramide synthase inhibitor to a mouse model of nGD. To our knowledge this is the first compound shown to cross the blood brain barrier and reduce substrates in this animal model while significantly enhancing its lifespan. These results reinforce the concept that systemically administered glucosylceramide synthase inhibitors could hold enhanced therapeutic promise for patients afflicted with neuropathic lysosomal storage diseases.
Current anti-inflammatory strategies for the treatment of pulmonary disease in cystic fibrosis (CF) are limited; thus, there is continued interest in identifying additional molecular targets for therapeutic intervention. Given the emerging role of sphingolipids (SLs) in various respiratory disorders, including CF, drugs that selectively target the enzymes associated with SL metabolism are under development. Miglustat, a well-characterized iminosugar-based inhibitor of β-glucosidase 2 (GBA2), has shown promise in CF treatment because it reduces the inflammatory response to infection by P. aeruginosa and restores F508del-CFTR chloride channel activity. This study aimed to probe the molecular basis for the anti-inflammatory activity of miglustat by examining specifically the role of GBA2 following the infection of CF bronchial epithelial cells by P. aeruginosa. We also report the anti-inflammatory activity of another potent inhibitor of GBA2 activity, namely N-(5-adamantane-1-yl-methoxy)pentyl)-deoxynojirimycin (Genz-529648). In CF bronchial cells, inhibition of GBA2 by miglustat or Genz-529648 significantly reduced the induction of IL-8 mRNA levels and protein release following infection by P. aeruginosa. Hence, the present data demonstrate that the anti-inflammatory effects of miglustat and Genz-529648 are likely exerted through inhibition of GBA2.
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.
Pompe disease is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by a deficiency of acid α-glucosidase (GAA; EC 188.8.131.52) and the resultant progressive lysosomal accumulation of glycogen in skeletal and cardiac muscles. Enzyme replacement therapy using recombinant human GAA (rhGAA) has proven beneficial in addressing several aspects of the disease such as cardiomyopathy and aberrant motor function. However, residual muscle weakness, hearing loss, and the risks of arrhythmias and osteopenia persist despite enzyme therapy. Here, we evaluated the relative merits of substrate reduction therapy (by inhibiting glycogen synthesis) as a potential adjuvant strategy. A phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligonucleotide (PMO) designed to invoke exon skipping and premature stop codon usage in the transcript for muscle specific glycogen synthase (Gys1) was identified and conjugated to a cell penetrating peptide (GS-PPMO) to facilitate PMO delivery to muscle. GS-PPMO systemic administration to Pompe mice led to a dose-dependent decrease in glycogen synthase transcripts in the quadriceps, and the diaphragm but not the liver. An mRNA response in the heart was seen only at the higher dose tested. Associated with these decreases in transcript levels were correspondingly lower tissue levels of muscle specific glycogen synthase and activity. Importantly, these reductions resulted in significant decreases in the aberrant accumulation of lysosomal glycogen in the quadriceps, diaphragm, and heart of Pompe mice. Treatment was without any overt toxicity, supporting the notion that substrate reduction by GS-PPMO-mediated inhibition of muscle specific glycogen synthase represents a viable therapeutic strategy for Pompe disease after further development.
antisense oligonucleotide; cell penetrating peptide; glycogen synthase; morpholino; nonsense-mediated decay; Pompe disease; phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligonucleotide; skeletal muscle; substrate reduction therapy
We have assessed whether viscoelastic gels known to inhibit mucociliary clearance can increase lipid-mediated gene transfer. Methylcellulose or carboxymethylcellulose (0.25 to 1.5%) were mixed with complexes of the cationic lipid GL67A and plasmids encoding luciferase and perfused onto the nasal epithelium of mice. Survival after perfusion with 1% CMC or1% MC was 90 and 100%, respectively. In contrast 1.5% CMC was uniformly lethal likely due to the viscous solution blocking the airways. Perfusion with 0.5% CMC containing lipid/DNA complexes reproducibly increased gene expression by approximately 3-fold (n= 16, p<0.05). Given this benefit, likely related to increased duration of contact, we also assessed the effect of prolonging contact time of the liposome/DNA complexes by delivering our standard 80 μg DNA dose over either approximately 22 or 60 min of perfusion. This independently increased gene transfer by 6-fold (n=8, p<0.05) and could be further enhanced by the addition of 0.5% CMC, leading to an overall 25-fold enhancement (n=8, p<0.001) in gene expression. As a result of these interventions CFTR transgene mRNA transgene levels were increased several logs above background. Interestingly, this did not lead to correction of the ion transport defects in the nasal epithelium of cystic fibrosis mice nor for immunohistochemical quantification of CFTR expression. To assess if 0.5% CMC also increased gene transfer in the mouse lung, we used whole body nebulisation chambers. CMC was nebulised for 1 hr immediately before, or simultaneously with GL67A/pCIKLux. The former did not increase gene transfer, whereas co-administration significantly increased gene transfer by 4-fold (p<0.0001, n=18). This study suggests that contact time of non-viral gene transfer agents is a key factor for gene delivery, and suggests two methods which may be translatable for use in man.
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.
Gaucher disease is caused by a deficiency of the lysosomal enzyme glucocerebrosidase (acid β-glucosidase), with consequent cellular accumulation of glucosylceramide (GL-1). The disease is managed by intravenous administrations of recombinant glucocerebrosidase (imiglucerase), although symptomatic patients with mild to moderate type 1 Gaucher disease for whom enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) is not an option may also be treated by substrate reduction therapy (SRT) with miglustat. To determine whether the sequential use of both ERT and SRT may provide additional benefits, we compared the relative pharmacodynamic efficacies of separate and sequential therapies in a murine model of Gaucher disease (D409V/null). As expected, ERT with recombinant glucocerebrosidase was effective in reducing the burden of GL-1 storage in the liver, spleen, and lung of 3-month-old Gaucher mice. SRT using a novel inhibitor of glucosylceramide synthase (Genz-112638) was also effective, albeit to a lesser degree than ERT. Animals administered recombinant glucocerebrosidase and then Genz-112638 showed the lowest levels of GL-1 in all the visceral organs and a reduced number of Gaucher cells in the liver. This was likely because the additional deployment of SRT following enzyme therapy slowed the rate of reaccumulation of GL-1 in the affected organs. Hence, in patients whose disease has been stabilized by intravenously administered recombinant glucocerebrosidase, orally administered SRT with Genz-112638 could potentially be used as a convenient maintenance therapy. In patients naïve to treatment, ERT followed by SRT could potentially accelerate clearance of the offending substrate.
Crosslinking ligand-engaged cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4) to the T cell receptor (TCR) with a bispecific fusion protein (BsB) comprised of a mutant mouse CD80 and lymphocyte activation antigen-3 (LAG-3) has been shown to attenuate TCR signaling and to direct T-cell differentiation toward Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) in an allogenic mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR). Here, we show that antigen-specific Tregs can also be induced in an antigen-specific setting in vitro. Treatment of non-obese diabetic (NOD) female mice between 9–12 weeks of age with a short course of BsB elicited a transient increase of Tregs in the blood and moderately delayed the onset of autoimmune type 1 diabetes (T1D). However, a longer course of treatment (10 weeks) of 4–13 weeks-old female NOD animals with BsB significantly delayed the onset of disease or protected animals from developing diabetes, with only 13% of treated animals developing diabetes by 35 weeks of age compared to 80% of the animals in the control group. Histopathological analysis of the pancreata of the BsB-treated mice that remained non-diabetic revealed the preservation of insulin-producing β-cells despite the presence of different degrees of insulitis. Thus, a bifunctional protein capable of engaging CTLA-4 and MHCII and indirectly co-ligating CTLA-4 to the TCR protected NOD mice from developing T1D.
Treating the central nervous system manifestations of subjects with neuropathic lysosomal storage diseases remains a major technical challenge. This is because of the low efficiency by which lysosomal enzymes in systemic circulation are able to traverse the blood brain barrier into the central nervous system. Intracranial transplantation of neural stems cells genetically modified to overexpress the respective deficient enzymes represents a potential approach to addressing this group of diseases. The unique properties of neural stem cells and progenitor cells, such as their ability to migrate to distal sites, differentiate into various cell types and integrate within the host brain without disrupting normal function, making them particularly attractive therapeutic agents. In addition, neural stem cells are amenable to ex vivo propagation and modification by gene transfer vectors. In this regard, transplanted cells can serve not only as a source of lysosomal enzymes but also as a means to potentially repair the injured brain by replenishing the organ with healthy cells and effecting the release of neuroprotective factors. This review discusses some of the well-characterized neural stem cell types and their possible use in treating neuropathic lysosomal storage diseases such as the Niemann Pick A disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13311-011-0067-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Neural stem cells; Neural progenitor cells; Cell transplantation; Lysosomal storage diseases; Niemann Pick A disease
Pre-existing immunity against adeno-associated virus (AAV) remains a major challenge facing the clinical use of systemic administration of recombinant AAV vectors for the treatment of genetic and acquired diseases using gene therapy. In this study, we evaluated the potential of bortezomib (marketed under trade name Velcade) to abrogate a pre-existing immunity to AAV in mice, thereby allowing subsequent transduction by a recombinant AAV vector of the same serotype. We demonstrate that bortezomib efficiently reduces AAV-specific IgG titres and moderates the cytotoxic T cell response in mice that have a pre-existing immunity to AAV2/8. Significant depletion of AAV2/8-specific IgG-producing plasma cells in secondary lymphoid organs and bone marrow was observed. However, this inhibition of the immune response by bortezomib was insufficient to allow subsequent re-infection with a recombinant AAV vector of a similar serotype. We show that this shortcoming is probably due to the combination of residual antibody levels and the inability of bortezomib to completely deplete the memory B cells that are re-activated in response to a repeated infection with a recombinant AAV vector. Taken together, the results of this study argue for the use of immunosuppressive therapies that target both plasma and memory B cells for the efficient elimination of pre-existing immunity against AAV2/8 vectors.
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.
The neuropathic glycosphingolipidoses are a subgroup of lysosomal storage disorders for which there are no effective therapies. A potential approach is substrate reduction therapy using inhibitors of glucosylceramide synthase (GCS) to decrease the synthesis of glucosylceramide and related glycosphingolipids that accumulate in the lysosomes. Genz-529468, a blood-brain barrier-permeant iminosugar-based GCS inhibitor, was used to evaluate this concept in a mouse model of Sandhoff disease, which accumulates the glycosphingolipid GM2 in the visceral organs and CNS. As expected, oral administration of the drug inhibited hepatic GM2 accumulation. Paradoxically, in the brain, treatment resulted in a slight increase in GM2 levels and a 20-fold increase in glucosylceramide levels. The increase in brain glucosylceramide levels might be due to concurrent inhibition of the non-lysosomal glucosylceramidase, Gba2. Similar results were observed with NB-DNJ, another iminosugar-based GCS inhibitor. Despite these unanticipated increases in glycosphingolipids in the CNS, treatment nevertheless delayed the loss of motor function and coordination and extended the lifespan of the Sandhoff mice. These results suggest that the CNS benefits observed in the Sandhoff mice might not necessarily be due to substrate reduction therapy but rather to off-target effects.
Niemann-Pick A (NPA) disease is a lysosomal storage disorder (LSD) caused by a deficiency in acid sphingomyelinase (ASM) activity. Previously, we reported that biochemical and functional abnormalities observed in ASM knockout (ASMKO) mice could be partially alleviated by intracerebroventricular (ICV) infusion of hASM. We now show that this route of delivery also results in widespread enzyme distribution throughout the rat brain and spinal cord. However, enzyme diffusion into CNS parenchyma did not occur in a linear dose-dependent fashion. Moreover, although the levels of hASM detected in the rat CNS were determined to be within the range shown to be therapeutic in ASMKO mice, the absolute amounts represented less than 1% of the total dose administered. Finally, our results also showed that similar levels of enzyme distribution are achieved across rodent species when the dose is normalized to CNS weight as opposed to whole body weight. Collectively, these data suggest that the efficacy observed following ICV delivery of hASM in ASMKO mice could be scaled to CNS of the rat.
Fabry disease is an X-linked glycosphingolipid storage disorder caused by a deficiency in the activity of the lysosomal hydrolase α-galactosidase A (α-gal). This deficiency results in accumulation of the glycosphingolipid globotriaosylceramide (GL-3) in lysosomes. Endothelial cell storage of GL-3 frequently leads to kidney dysfunction, cardiac and cerebrovascular disease. The current treatment for Fabry disease is through infusions of recombinant α-gal (enzyme-replacement therapy; ERT). Although ERT can markedly reduce the lysosomal burden of GL-3 in endothelial cells, variability is seen in the clearance from several other cell types. This suggests that alternative and adjuvant therapies may be desirable. Use of glucosylceramide synthase inhibitors to abate the biosynthesis of glycosphingolipids (substrate reduction therapy, SRT) has been shown to be effective at reducing substrate levels in the related glycosphingolipidosis, Gaucher disease. Here, we show that such an inhibitor (eliglustat tartrate, Genz-112638) was effective at lowering GL-3 accumulation in a mouse model of Fabry disease. Relative efficacy of SRT and ERT at reducing GL-3 levels in Fabry mouse tissues differed with SRT being more effective in the kidney, and ERT more efficacious in the heart and liver. Combination therapy with ERT and SRT provided the most complete clearance of GL-3 from all the tissues. Furthermore, treatment normalized urine volume and uromodulin levels and significantly delayed the loss of a nociceptive response. The differential efficacies of SRT and ERT in the different tissues indicate that the combination approach is both additive and complementary suggesting the possibility of an improved therapeutic paradigm in the management of Fabry disease.
Obesity is characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver and other tissues, leading to insulin resistance. We have previously shown that a specific inhibitor of glucosylceramide synthase, which inhibits the initial step in the synthesis of glycosphingolipids (GSLs), improved glucose metabolism and decreased hepatic steatosis in both ob/ob and diet-induced obese (DIO) mice. Here we have determined in the DIO mouse model the efficacy of a related small molecule compound, Genz-112638, which is currently being evaluated clinically for the treatment of Gaucher disease, a lysosomal storage disorder.
DIO mice were treated with the Genz-112638 for 12 to 16 weeks by daily oral gavage. Genz-112638 lowered HbA1c levels and increased glucose tolerance. Whole body adiposity was not affected in normal mice, but decreased in drug-treated obese mice. Drug treatment also significantly lowered liver triglyceride levels and reduced the development of hepatic steatosis. We performed hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps on the DIO mice treated with Genz-112638 and showed that insulin-mediated suppression of hepatic glucose production increased significantly compared to the placebo treated mice, indicating a marked improvement in hepatic insulin sensitivity.
These results indicate that GSL inhibition in obese mice primarily results in an increase in insulin action in the liver, and suggests that GSLs may have an important role in hepatic insulin resistance in conditions of obesity.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neuromuscular disease caused by a deficiency of survival motor neuron (SMN) due to mutations in the SMN1 gene. In this study, an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector expressing human SMN (AAV8-hSMN) was injected at birth into the CNS of mice modeling SMA. Western blot analysis showed that these injections resulted in widespread expression of SMN throughout the spinal cord, and this translated into robust improvement in skeletal muscle physiology, including increased myofiber size and improved neuromuscular junction architecture. Treated mice also displayed substantial improvements on behavioral tests of muscle strength, coordination, and locomotion, indicating that the neuromuscular junction was functional. Treatment with AAV8-hSMN increased the median life span of mice with SMA-like disease to 50 days compared with 15 days for untreated controls. Moreover, injecting mice with SMA-like disease with a human SMN–expressing self-complementary AAV vector — a vector that leads to earlier onset of gene expression compared with standard AAV vectors — led to improved efficacy of gene therapy, including a substantial extension in median survival to 157 days. These data indicate that CNS-directed, AAV-mediated SMN augmentation is highly efficacious in addressing both neuronal and muscular pathologies in a severe mouse model of SMA.
Pompe disease (glycogen storage disease II) is caused by mutations in the acid α-glucosidase gene. The most common form is rapidly progressive with glycogen storage, particularly in muscle, that leads to profound weakness, cardiac failure, and death by the age of two years. Although usually considered a muscle disease, glycogen storage also occurs in the CNS. We evaluated the progression of neuropathological and behavioral abnormalities in a Pompe disease mouse model (6neo/6neo) that displays many features of the human disease. Homozygous mutant mice store excess glycogen within large neurons of hindbrain, spinal cord, and sensory ganglia by the age of one month; accumulations then spread progressively within many CNS cell types. “Silver degeneration” and Fluoro-Jade C stains revealed severe degeneration in axon terminals of primary sensory neurons at three to nine months. These abnormalities were accompanied by progressive behavioral impairment on rotorod, wire hanging and foot fault tests. The extensive neuropathological alterations in this model suggest that therapy of skeletal and cardiac muscle disorders by systemic enzyme replacement therapy may not be sufficient to reverse functional deficits due to CNS glycogen storage, particularly early-onset, rapidly progressive disease. A better understanding of the basis for clinical manifestations is needed to correlate CNS pathology with Pompe disease manifestations.
Axon terminal degeneration; Genetic disease; Glycogen storage in CNS; Lysosomal storage diseases; Neurobiology
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of the motor system. Recent work in rodent models of ALS has shown that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) slows disease progression when delivered at disease onset. However, IGF-1’s mechanism of action along the neuromuscular axis remains unclear. In this study, symptomatic ALS mice received IGF-1 through stereotaxic injection of an IGF-1-expressing viral vector to the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN), a region of the cerebellum with extensive brain stem and spinal cord connections. We found that delivery of IGF-1 to the central nervous system (CNS) reduced ALS neuropathology, improved muscle strength, and significantly extended life span in ALS mice. To explore the mechanism of action of IGF-1, we used a newly developed in vitro model of ALS. We demonstrate that IGF-1 is potently neuroprotective and attenuates glial cell–mediated release of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and nitric oxide (NO). Our results show that delivering IGF-1 to the CNS is sufficient to delay disease progression in a mouse model of familial ALS and demonstrate for the first time that IGF-1 attenuates the pathological activity of non-neuronal cells that contribute to disease progression. Our findings highlight an innovative approach for delivering IGF-1 to the CNS.
The cationic lipid Genzyme lipid (GL) 67 is the current "gold-standard" for in vivo lung gene transfer. Here, we assessed, if GL67 mediated uptake of siRNAs and asODNs into airway epithelium in vivo.
Anti-lacZ and ENaC (epithelial sodium channel) siRNA and asODN were complexed to GL67 and administered to the mouse airway epithelium in vivo Transfection efficiency and efficacy were assessed using real-time RT-PCR as well as through protein expression and functional studies. In parallel in vitro experiments were carried out to select the most efficient oligonucleotides.
In vitro, GL67 efficiently complexed asODNs and siRNAs, and both were stable in exhaled breath condensate. Importantly, during in vitro selection of functional siRNA and asODN we noted that asODNs accumulated rapidly in the nuclei of transfected cells, whereas siRNAs remained in the cytoplasm, a pattern consistent with their presumed site of action. Following in vivo lung transfection siRNAs were only visible in alveolar macrophages, whereas asODN also transfected alveolar epithelial cells, but no significant uptake into conducting airway epithelial cells was seen. SiRNAs and asODNs targeted to β-galactosidase reduced βgal mRNA levels in the airway epithelium of K18-lacZ mice by 30% and 60%, respectively. However, this was insufficient to reduce protein expression. In an attempt to increase transfection efficiency of the airway epithelium, we increased contact time of siRNA and asODN using the in vivo mouse nose model. Although highly variable and inefficient, transfection of airway epithelium with asODN, but not siRNA, was now seen. As asODNs more effectively transfected nasal airway epithelial cells, we assessed the effect of asODN against ENaC, a potential therapeutic target in cystic fibrosis; no decrease in ENaC mRNA levels or function was detected.
This study suggests that although siRNAs and asODNs can be developed to inhibit gene expression in culture systems and certain organs in vivo, barriers to nucleic acid transfer in airway epithelial cells seen with large DNA molecules may also affect the efficiency of in vivo uptake of small nucleic acid molecules.