The understanding of the human microbiome and its influence upon human life has long been a subject of study. Hence, methods that allow the direct detection and visualization of microorganisms and microbial consortia (e.g. biofilms) within the human body would be invaluable. In here, we assessed the possibility of developing a variant of fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), named fluorescence in vivo hybridization (FIVH), for the detection of Helicobacter pylori. Using oligonucleotide variations comprising locked nucleic acids (LNA) and 2’-O-methyl RNAs (2’OMe) with two types of backbone linkages (phosphate or phosphorothioate), we were able to successfully identify two probes that hybridize at 37 °C with high specificity and sensitivity for H. pylori, both in pure cultures and in gastric biopsies. Furthermore, the use of this type of probes implied that toxic compounds typically used in FISH were either found to be unnecessary or could be replaced by a non-toxic substitute. We show here for the first time that the use of advanced LNA probes in FIVH conditions provides an accurate, simple and fast method for H. pylori detection and location, which could be used in the future for potential in vivo applications either for this microorganism or for others.
The formation of a single G-quadruplex structure adopted by a promising 25 nt G-rich vascular endothelial growth factor aptamer in a K+ rich environment was facilitated by locked nucleic acid modifications. An unprecedented all parallel-stranded monomeric G-quadruplex with three G-quartet planes exhibits several unique structural features. Five consecutive guanine residues are all involved in G-quartet formation and occupy positions in adjacent DNA strands, which are bridged with a no-residue propeller-type loop. A two-residue D-shaped loop facilitates inclusion of an isolated guanine residue into the vacant spot within the G-quartet. The remaining two G-rich tracts of three residues each adopt parallel orientation and are linked with edgewise and propeller loops. Both 5′ with 3 nt and 3′ with 4 nt overhangs display well-defined conformations, with latter adopting a basket handle topology. Locked residues contribute to thermal stabilization of the adopted structure and formation of structurally pre-organized intermediates that facilitate folding into a single G-quadruplex. Understanding the impact of chemical modifications on folding, thermal stability and structural polymorphism of G-quadruplexes provides means for the improvement of vascular endothelial growth factor aptamers and advances our insights into driving nucleic acid structure by locking or unlocking the conformation of sugar moieties of nucleotides in general.
In spite of the many developments in synthetic oligonucleotide (ON) chemistry and design, invasion into double-stranded DNA (DSI) under physiological salt and pH conditions remains a challenge. In this work, we provide a new ON tool based on locked nucleic acids (LNAs), designed for strand invasion into duplex DNA (DSI). We thus report on the development of a clamp type of LNA ON—bisLNA—with capacity to bind and invade into supercoiled double-stranded DNA. The bisLNA links a triplex-forming, Hoogsteen-binding, targeting arm with a strand-invading Watson–Crick binding arm. Optimization was carried out by varying the number and location of LNA nucleotides and the length of the triplex-forming versus strand-invading arms. Single-strand regions in target duplex DNA were mapped using chemical probing. By combining design and increase in LNA content, it was possible to achieve a 100-fold increase in potency with 30% DSI at 450 nM using a bisLNA to plasmid ratio of only 21:1. Although this first conceptual report does not address the utility of bisLNA for the targeting of DNA in a chromosomal context, it shows bisLNA as a promising candidate for interfering also with cellular genes.
Genetic information storage and processing rely on just two polymers, DNA and RNA. Whether their role reflects evolutionary history or fundamental functional constraints is unknown. Using polymerase evolution and design, we show that genetic information can be stored in and recovered from six alternative genetic polymers (XNAs) based on simple nucleic acid architectures not found in nature. We also select XNA aptamers, which bind their targets with high affinity and specificity, demonstrating that beyond heredity, specific XNAs have the capacity for Darwinian evolution and for folding into defined structures. Thus, heredity and evolution, two hallmarks of life, are not limited to DNA and RNA but are likely to be emergent properties of polymers capable of information storage.
Modified nucleotides are increasingly being utilized in the de novo selection of aptamers for enhancing their drug-like character and abolishing the need for time consuming trial-and-error based post-selection modifications. Locked nucleic acid (LNA) is one of the most prominent and successful nucleic acid analogues because of its remarkable properties, and widely explored as building blocks in therapeutic oligonucleotides. Evolution of LNA-modified RNA aptamers requires an efficient reverse transcription method for PCR enrichment of the selected RNA aptamer candidates. Establishing this key step is a pre-requisite for performing LNA-modified RNA aptamer selection.
In this study three different reverse transcriptases were investigated towards the enzymatic recognition of LNA nucleotides. Both incorporation as well as reading capabilities of the LNA nucleotides was investigated to fully understand the limitations of the enzymatic recognition.
We found that SuperScript® III Reverse Transcriptase is an efficient enzyme for the recognition of LNA nucleotides, making it a prime candidate to be used in de novo selection of LNA containing RNA aptamers
MicroRNAs are short, endogenous RNAs that direct posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression vital for many developmental and cellular functions. Implicated in the pathogenesis of several human diseases, this group of RNAs provides interesting targets for therapeutic intervention. Anti-microRNA oligonucleotides constitute a class of synthetic antisense oligonucleotides used to interfere with microRNAs. In this study, we investigate the effects of chemical modifications and truncations on activity and specificity of anti-microRNA oligonucleotides targeting microRNA-21. We observed an increased activity but reduced specificity when incorporating locked nucleic acid monomers, whereas the opposite was observed when introducing unlocked nucleic acid monomers. Our data suggest that phosphorothioate anti-microRNA oligonucleotides yield a greater activity than their phosphodiester counterparts and that a moderate truncation of the anti-microRNA oligonucleotide improves specificity without significantly losing activity. These results provide useful insights for design of anti-microRNA oligonucleotides to achieve both high activity as well as efficient mismatch discrimination.
Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are promising new active compounds in gene medicine but the induction of non-specific immune responses following their delivery continues to be a serious problem. With the purpose of avoiding such effects chemically modified siRNAs are tested in screening assay but often only examining the expression of specific immunologically relevant genes in selected cell populations typically blood cells from treated animals or humans. Assays using a relevant physiological state in biological models as read-out are not common. Here we use a fish model where the innate antiviral effect of siRNAs is functionally monitored as reduced mortality in challenge studies involving an interferon sensitive virus. Modifications with locked nucleic acid (LNA), altritol nucleic acid (ANA) and hexitol nucleic acid (HNA) reduced the antiviral protection in this model indicative of altered immunogenicity. For LNA modified siRNAs, the number and localization of modifications in the single strands was found to be important and a correlation between antiviral protection and the thermal stability of siRNAs was found. The previously published sisiRNA will in some sequences, but not all, increase the antiviral effect of siRNAs. The applied fish model represents a potent tool for conducting fast but statistically and scientifically relevant evaluations of chemically optimized siRNAs with respect to non-specific antiviral effects in vivo.
We describe the first enzymatic incorporation of an α-L-LNA nucleotide into an oligonucleotide. It was found that the 5′-triphosphate of α-L-LNA is a substrate for the DNA polymerases KOD, 9°Nm, Phusion and HIV RT. Three dispersed α-L-LNA thymine nucleotides can be incorporated into DNA strands by all four polymerases, but they were unable to perform consecutive incorporations of α-L-LNA nucleotides. In addition it was found that primer extension can be achieved using templates containing one α-L-LNA nucleotide.
enzymatic synthesis; modified nucleotide; polymerase; triphosphate; α-L-LNA
We report the synthesis of two C4′-modified DNA analogues and characterize their structural impact on dsDNA duplexes. The 4′-C-piperazinomethyl modification stabilizes dsDNA by up to 5°C per incorporation. Extension of the modification with a butanoyl-linked pyrene increases the dsDNA stabilization to a maximum of 9°C per incorporation. Using fluorescence, ultraviolet and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, we show that the stabilization is achieved by pyrene intercalation in the dsDNA duplex. The pyrene moiety is not restricted to one intercalation site but rather switches between multiple sites in intermediate exchange on the NMR timescale, resulting in broad lines in NMR spectra. We identified two intercalation sites with NOE data showing that the pyrene prefers to intercalate one base pair away from the modified nucleotide with its linker curled up in the minor groove. Both modifications are tolerated in DNA:RNA hybrids but leave their melting temperatures virtually unaffected. Fluorescence data indicate that the pyrene moiety is residing outside the helix. The available data suggest that the DNA discrimination is due to (i) the positive charge of the piperazino ring having a greater impact in the narrow and deep minor groove of a B-type dsDNA duplex than in the wide and shallow minor groove of an A-type DNA:RNA hybrid and (ii) the B-type dsDNA duplex allowing the pyrene to intercalate and bury its apolar surface.
A 15-mer DNA aptamer (named TBA) adopts a G-quadruplex structure that strongly inhibits fibrin-clot formation by binding to thrombin. We have performed thermodynamic analysis, binding affinity and biological activity studies of TBA variants modified by unlocked nucleic acid (UNA) monomers. UNA-U placed in position U3, U7 or U12 increases the thermodynamic stability of TBA by 0.15–0.50 kcal/mol. In contrast, modification of any position within the two G-quartet structural elements is unfavorable for quadruplex formation. The intramolecular folding of the quadruplexes is confirmed by Tm versus ln c analysis. Moreover, circular dichroism and thermal difference spectra of the modified TBAs displaying high thermodynamic stability show bands that are characteristic for antiparallel quadruplex formation. Surface plasmon resonance studies of the binding of the UNA-modified TBAs to thrombin show that a UNA monomer is allowed in many positions of the aptamer without significantly changing the thrombin-binding properties. The biological effect of a selection of the modified aptamers was tested by a thrombin time assay and showed that most of the UNA-modified TBAs possess anticoagulant properties, and that the construct with a UNA-U monomer in position 7 is a highly potent inhibitor of fibrin-clot formation.
Zorro-LNA (Zorro) is a newly developed, oligonucleotide (ON)-based, Z-shaped construct with the potential of specific binding to each strand of duplex DNA. The first-generation Zorros are formed by two hybridized LNA/DNA mixmers (2-ON Zorros) and was hypothesized to strand invade. We have now established a method, which conclusively demonstrates that an LNA ON can strand invade into duplex DNA. To make Zorros smaller in size and easier to design, we synthesized 3′–5′–5′–3′ single-stranded Zorro-LNA (ssZorro) by using both 3′- and 5′-phosphoramidites. With ssZorro, a significantly greater extent and rate of double-strand invasion (DSI) was obtained than with conventional 2-ON Zorros. Introducing hydrophilic PEG-linkers connecting the two strands did not significantly change the rate or extent of DSI as compared to ssZorro with a nucleotide-based linker, while the longest alkyl-chain linker tested (36 carbons) resulted in a very slow DSI. The shortest alkyl-chain linker (3 carbons) did not reduce the extent of DSI of ssZorro, but significantly decreased the DSI rate. Collectively, ssZorro is smaller in size, easier to design and more efficient than conventional 2-ON Zorro in inducing DSI. Analysis of the chemical composition of the linker suggests that it could be of importance for future therapeutic considerations.
The clinical use of small interfering RNA (siRNA) is hampered by poor uptake by tissues and instability in circulation. In addition, off-target effects pose a significant additional problem for therapeutic use of siRNA. Chemical modifications of siRNA have been reported to increase stability and reduce off-target effects enabling possible therapeutic use of siRNA. Recently a large scale direct comparison of the impact of 21 different types of novel chemical modifications on siRNA efficiency and cell viability was published.1 It was found that several types of chemical modifications could enhance siRNA activity beyond that of an unmodified siRNA in vitro. In addition, a novel siRNA design, termed small internally segmented interfering RNA (sisiRNA), composed of an intact antisense strand and segmented guide strand stabilized using LNA was shown to be effective in cell based assays. In the present study we examined the in vivo efficacy of the LNA and UNA modified siRNA and sisiRNA in a mouse model bearing human tumor xenografts. We studied the biodistribution and efficacy of target knockdown in the mouse model. In addition we used whole genome profiling to assess the off-target effects in the liver of the mouse and the tumor xenografts. We report that LNA and UNA modified siRNA and sisiRNA improve the efficacy in target knockdown as compared with unmodified siRNA in the tumor xenografts without formulation. However, the level of off-target gene regulation in both the tumor and the liver correlated with the increase in efficacy in target knockdown, unless the seed region of the siRNA was modified.
LNA; unlocked nucleic acid; siRNA; sisiRNA; off-target effects
Thermodynamics provides insights into the influence of modified nucleotide residues on stability of nucleic acids and is crucial for designing duplexes with given properties. In this article, we introduce detailed thermodynamic analysis of RNA duplexes modified with unlocked nucleic acid (UNA) nucleotide residues. We investigate UNA single substitutions as well as model mismatch and dangling end effects. UNA residues placed in a central position makes RNA duplex structure less favourable by 4.0–6.6 kcal/mol. Slight destabilization, by ∼0.5–1.5 kcal/mol, is observed for 5′- or 3′-terminal UNA residues. Furthermore, thermodynamic effects caused by UNA residues are extremely additive with ΔG°37 conformity up to 98%. Direct mismatches involving UNA residues decrease the thermodynamic stability less than unmodified mismatches in RNA duplexes. Additionally, the presence of UNA residues adjacent to unpaired RNA residues reduces mismatch discrimination. Thermodynamic analysis of UNA 5′- and 3′-dangling ends revealed that stacking interactions of UNA residues are always less favourable than that of RNA residues. Finally, circular dichroism spectra imply no changes in overall A-form structure of UNA–RNA/RNA duplexes relative to the unmodified RNA duplexes.
Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are now established as the preferred tool to inhibit gene function in mammalian cells yet trigger unintended gene silencing due to their inherent miRNA-like behavior. Such off-target effects are primarily mediated by the sequence-specific interaction between the siRNA seed regions (position 2–8 of either siRNA strand counting from the 5′-end) and complementary sequences in the 3′UTR of (off-) targets. It was previously shown that chemical modification of siRNAs can reduce off-targeting but only very few modifications have been tested leaving more to be identified. Here we developed a luciferase reporter-based assay suitable to monitor siRNA off-targeting in a high throughput manner using stable cell lines. We investigated the impact of chemically modifying single nucleotide positions within the siRNA seed on siRNA function and off-targeting using 10 different types of chemical modifications, three different target sequences and three siRNA concentrations. We found several differently modified siRNAs to exercise reduced off-targeting yet incorporation of the strongly destabilizing unlocked nucleic acid (UNA) modification into position 7 of the siRNA most potently reduced off-targeting for all tested sequences. Notably, such position-specific destabilization of siRNA–target interactions did not significantly reduce siRNA potency and is therefore well suited for future siRNA designs especially for applications in vivo where siRNA concentrations, expectedly, will be low.
Chemically modified oligonucleotides are increasingly applied in nucleic acid based therapeutics and diagnostics. LNA (Locked Nucleic Acid) and its diastereomer α-L-LNA are two promising examples hereof that exhibit increased thermal and enzymatic stability. Herein, the synthesis, biophysical characterization and molecular modeling of N2′-functionalized 2′-amino-α-L-LNA is described. Chemoselective N2′-functionalization of protected amino alcohol 1 followed by phosphitylation afforded a structurally varied set of target phosphoramidites, which were incorporated into oligodeoxyribonucleotides. Incorporation of pyrene-functionalized building blocks such as 2′-N-(pyren-1-yl)carbonyl-2′-amino-α-L-LNA (monomer X) led to extraordinary increases in thermal affinity of up to +19.5 °C per modification against DNA targets in particular. In contrast, incorporation of building blocks with small non-aromatic N2′-functionalities such as 2′-N-acetyl-2′-amino-α-L-LNA (monomer V) had detrimental effects on thermal affinity toward DNA/RNA complements with decreases of as much as −16.5 °C per modification. Extensive thermal DNA selectivity, favorable entropic contributions upon duplex formation, hybridization-induced bathochromic shifts of pyrene absorption maxima and increases of circular dichroism signals, and molecular modeling studies suggest that pyrene functionalized 2′-amino-α-L-LNA monomers W-Y having short linkers between the bicyclic skeleton and the pyrene moiety, allow high-affinity hybridization with DNA complements and precise positioning of intercalators in nucleic acid duplexes. This rigorous positional control has been utilized for the development probes for emerging therapeutic and diagnostic applications focusing on DNA-targeting.
The use of chemically synthesized short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) is currently the method of choice to manipulate gene expression in mammalian cell culture, yet improvements of siRNA design is expectably required for successful application in vivo. Several studies have aimed at improving siRNA performance through the introduction of chemical modifications but a direct comparison of these results is difficult. We have directly compared the effect of 21 types of chemical modifications on siRNA activity and toxicity in a total of 2160 siRNA duplexes. We demonstrate that siRNA activity is primarily enhanced by favouring the incorporation of the intended antisense strand during RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) loading by modulation of siRNA thermodynamic asymmetry and engineering of siRNA 3′-overhangs. Collectively, our results provide unique insights into the tolerance for chemical modifications and provide a simple guide to successful chemical modification of siRNAs with improved activity, stability and low toxicity.
RNA interference is mediated by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that upon incorporation into the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) can target complementary mRNA for degradation. Standard siRNA design usually feature a 19–27 base pair contiguous double-stranded region that is believed to be important for RISC incorporation. Here, we describe a novel siRNA design composed of an intact antisense strand complemented with two shorter 10–12 nt sense strands. This three-stranded construct, termed small internally segmented interfering RNA (sisiRNA), is highly functional demonstrating that an intact sense strand is not a prerequisite for RNA interference. Moreover, when using the sisiRNA design only the antisense strand is functional in activated RISC thereby completely eliminating unintended mRNA targeting by the sense strand. Interestingly, the sisiRNA design supports the function of chemically modified antisense strands, which are non-functional within the context of standard siRNA designs. This suggests that the sisiRNA design has a clear potential of improving the pharmacokinetic properties of siRNA in vivo.
A primary concern when targeting HIV-1 RNA by means of antisense related technologies is the accessibility of the targets. Using a library selection approach to define the most accessible sites for 20-mer oligonucleotides annealing within the highly structured 5'-UTR of the HIV-1 genome we have shown that there are at least four optimal targets available.
The biological effect of antisense DNA and LNA oligonucleotides, DNA- and LNAzymes targeted to the four most accessible sites was tested for their abilities to block reverse transcription and dimerization of the HIV-1 RNA template in vitro, and to suppress HIV-1 production in cell culture. The neutralization of HIV-1 expression declined in the following order: antisense LNA > LNAzymes > DNAzymes and antisense DNA. The LNA modifications strongly enhanced the in vivo inhibitory activity of all the antisense constructs and some of the DNAzymes. Notably, two of the LNA modified antisense oligonucleotides inhibited HIV-1 production in cell culture very efficiently at concentration as low as 4 nM.
LNAs targeted to experimentally selected binding sites can function as very potent inhibitors of HIV-1 expression in cell culture and may potentially be developed as antiviral drug in patients.
DNAzymes cleave at predetermined sequences within RNA. A prerequisite for cleavage is that the DNAzyme can gain access to its target, and thus the DNAzyme must be capable of unfolding higher-order structures that are present in the RNA substrate. However, in many cases the RNA target sequence is hidden in a region that is too tightly structured to be accessed under physiological conditions by DNAzymes.
We investigated how incorporation of LNA (locked nucleic acid) monomers into DNAzymes improves their ability to gain access and cleave at highly-structured RNA targets. The binding arms of DNAzymes were varied in length and were substituted with up to three LNA and α-L-LNA monomers (forming LNAzymes). For one DNAzyme, the overall cleavage reaction proceeded fifty times faster after incorporation of two α-L-LNA monomers per binding arm (kobs increased from 0.014 min-1 to 0.78 min-1).
The data demonstrate how hydrolytic performance can be enhanced by design of LNAzymes, and indicate that there are optimal lengths for the binding arms and for the number of modified LNA monomers.
Triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) are powerful tools to interfere sequence-specifically with DNA-associated biological functions. (A/T,G)-containing TFOs are more commonly used in cells than (T,C)-containing TFOs, especially C-rich sequences; indeed the low intracellular stability of the non-covalent pyrimidine triplexes make the latter less active. In this work we studied the possibility to enhance DNA binding of (T,C)-containing TFOs, aiming to reach cellular activities; to this end, we used locked nucleic acid-modified TFOs (TFO/LNAs) in association with 5′-conjugation of an intercalating agent, an acridine derivative. In vitro a stable triplex was formed with the TFO-acridine conjugate: by SPR measurements at 37°C and neutral pH, the dissociation equilibrium constant was found in the nanomolar range and the triplex half-life ∼10 h (50-fold longer compared with the unconjugated TFO/LNA). Moreover to further understand DNA binding of (T,C)-containing TFO/LNAs, hybridization studies were performed at different pH values: triplex stabilization associated with pH decrease was mainly due to a slower dissociation process. Finally, biological activity of pyrimidine TFO/LNAs was evaluated in a cellular context: it occurred at concentrations ∼0.1 μM for acridine-conjugated TFO/LNA (or ∼2 μM for the unconjugated TFO/LNA) whereas the corresponding phosphodiester TFO was inactive, and it was demonstrated to be triplex-mediated.
Double-stranded oligonucleotides (ODNs) containing the consensus binding sequence of a transcription factor provide a rationally designed tool to manipulate gene expression at the transcriptional level by the decoy approach. However, modifications introduced into oligonucleotides to increase stability quite often do not guarantee that transcription factor affinity and/or specificity of recognition are retained. We have previously evaluated the use of locked nucleic acids (LNA) in the design of decoy molecules for the transcription factor κB. Oligo nucleotides containing LNA substitutions displayed high resistance to exo- and endonucleolytic degradation, with LNA–DNA mix-mers being more stable than LNA–DNA–LNA gap-mers. However, insertion of internal LNA bases resulted in a loss of affinity for the transcription factor. This latter effect apparently depended on positioning of the internal LNA substitutions. Indeed, here we demonstrate that intra- and inter-strand positioning of internal LNAs has to be carefully considered to maintain affinity and achieve high stability, respectively. Unfortun ately, our data also indicate that LNA positioning is not the only parameter affecting transcription factor binding, the interference in part being dependent on the intrinsic conformational properties of this nucleotide analog. To circumvent this problem, the successful use of an α-l-ribo- configured LNA is demonstrated, indicating LNA–DNA–α-l-LNA molecules as promising new decoy agents.