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1.  Embedding siRNA sequences targeting Apolipoprotein B100 in shRNA and miRNA scaffolds results in differential processing and in vivo efficacy 
Molecular Therapy  2012;21(1):217-227.
Overexpression of short hairpin RNA (shRNA) often causes cytotoxicity and using microRNA (miRNA) scaffolds can circumvent this problem. In this study, identically predicted small interfering RNA (siRNA) sequences targeting apolipoprotein B100 (siApoB) were embedded in shRNA (shApoB) or miRNA (miApoB) scaffolds and a direct comparison of the processing and long-term in vivo efficacy was performed. Next generation sequencing of small RNAs originating from shApoB- or miApoB-transfected cells revealed substantial differences in processing, resulting in different siApoB length, 5′ and 3′ cleavage sites and abundance of the guide or passenger strands. Murine liver transduction with adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors expressing shApoB or miApoB resulted in high levels of siApoB expression associated with strong decrease of plasma ApoB protein and cholesterol. Expression of miApoB from the liver-specific LP1 promoter was restricted to the liver, while the H1 promoter-expressed shApoB was ectopically present. Delivery of 1 × 1011 genome copies AAV-shApoB or AAV-miApoB led to a gradual loss of ApoB and plasma cholesterol inhibition, which was circumvented by delivering a 20-fold lower vector dose. In conclusion, incorporating identical siRNA sequences in shRNA or miRNA scaffolds results in differential processing patterns and in vivo efficacy that may have serious consequences for future RNAi-based therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3538299  PMID: 23089734
2.  Optimization and comparison of knockdown efficacy between polymerase II expressed shRNA and artificial miRNA targeting luciferase and Apolipoprotein B100 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:42.
Controlling and limiting the expression of short hairpin RNA (shRNA) by using constitutive or tissue-specific polymerase II (pol II) expression can be a promising strategy to avoid RNAi toxicity. However, to date detailed studies on requirements for effective pol II shRNA expression and processing are not available. We investigated the optimal structural configuration of shRNA molecules, namely: hairpin location, stem length and termination signal required for effective pol II expression and compared it with an alternative strategy of avoiding toxicity by using artificial microRNA (miRNA) scaffolds.
Highly effective shRNAs targeting luciferase (shLuc) or Apolipoprotein B100 (shApoB1 and shApoB2) were placed under the control of the pol II CMV promoter and expressed at +5 or +6 nucleotides (nt) with reference to the transcription start site (TSS). Different transcription termination signals (TTS), namely minimal polyadenylation (pA), poly T (T5) and U1 were also used. All pol II- expressed shRNA variants induced mild inhibition of Luciferase reporters carrying specific targets and none of them showed comparable efficacy to their polymerase III-expressed H1-shRNA controls, regardless of hairpin position and termination signal used. Extending hairpin stem length from 20 basepairs (bp) to 21, 25 or 29 bp yielded only slight improvement in the overall efficacy. When shLuc, shApoB1 and shApoB2 were placed in an artificial miRNA scaffold, two out of three were as potent as the H1-shRNA controls. Quantification of small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules showed that the artificial miRNA constructs expressed less molecules than H1-shRNAs and that CMV-shRNA expressed the lowest amount of siRNA molecules suggesting that RNAi processing in this case is least effective. Furthermore, CMV-miApoB1 and CMV-miApoB2 were as effective as the corresponding H1-shApoB1 and H1-shApoB2 in inhibiting endogenous ApoB mRNA.
Our results demonstrate that artificial miRNA have a better efficacy profile than shRNA expressed either from H1 or CMV promoter and will be used in the future for RNAi therapeutic development.
PMCID: PMC3424168  PMID: 22827812
3.  In vivo knock-down of multidrug resistance transporters ABCC1 and ABCC2 by AAV-delivered shRNAs and by artificial miRNAs 
ABC transporters export clinically-relevant drugs and their over-expression causes multidrug resistance. In order to knock-down ABC transporters, ABCC1 and ABCC2, 13 shRNAs were developed. Four shRNA candidates were tested in vivo using self-complementary adeno-associated virus serotype 8. A strong, specific knock-down of Abbc2 was observed in mice liver, but at the cost of toxicity caused by oversaturation of the RNAi machinery due to high shRNA expression. Subsequent generation of artificial miRNAs showed better efficacy profile. These results demonstrate the feasibility of knocking down Abbc2 via AAV-delivered shRNAs to the liver, and encourage the use of miRNA in further therapeutics development.
PMCID: PMC3131674  PMID: 21769296
shRNA; miRNA; AAV; Abbc1; Abbc2; multidrug resistance; hepatocellular carcinoma
4.  RNAi-mediated inhibition of HIV-1 by targeting partially complementary viral sequences 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(18):6194-6204.
Potent antiviral RNAi can be induced by intracellular expression of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) and artificial microRNAs (miRNAs). Expression of shRNA and miRNA results in target mRNA degradation (perfect base pairing) or translational repression (partial base pairing). Although efficient inhibition can be obtained, error-prone viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) can escape from RNAi-mediated inhibition by mutating the target sequence. Recently, artificial miRNAs have been shown to be potent RNAi inducers due to their efficient processing by the RNAi machinery. Furthermore, miRNAs may be more proficient in suppressing imperfect targets than shRNAs. In this study, we tested the knockdown efficiency of miRNAs and shRNAs against wild-type and RNAi-escape HIV-1 variants with one or two mutations in the target sequence. ShRNAs and miRNAs can significantly inhibit the production of HIV-1 variants with mutated target sequences in the open reading frame. More pronounced mutation-tolerance was measured for targets in the 3′ untranslated region (3′ UTR). Partially complementary sequences within the 3′ UTR of the HIV-1 RNA genome efficiently act as target sites for miRNAs and shRNAs. These data suggest that targeting imperfect target sites by antiviral miRNAs or shRNAs provides an alternative RNAi approach for inhibition of pathogenic viruses.
PMCID: PMC2764431  PMID: 19656954
5.  Inhibition of HIV-1 by multiple siRNAs expressed from a single microRNA polycistron 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(9):2811-2824.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful approach to inhibit human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) replication. However, HIV-1 can escape from RNAi-mediated antiviral therapy by selection of mutations in the targeted sequence. To prevent viral escape, multiple small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) against conserved viral sequences should be combined. Ideally, these RNA inhibitors should be expressed simultaneously from a single transgene transcript. In this study, we tested a multiplex microRNA (miRNA) expression strategy by inserting multiple effective anti-HIV siRNA sequences in the miRNA polycistron mir-17-92. Individual anti-HIV miRNAs that resemble the natural miRNA structures were optimized by varying the siRNA position in the hairpin stem to obtain maximal effectiveness against luciferase reporters and HIV-1. We show that an antiviral miRNA construct can have a greater intrinsic inhibitory activity than a conventional short hairpin (shRNA) construct. When combined in a polycistron setting, the silencing activity of an individual miRNA is strongly boosted. We demonstrate that HIV-1 replication can be efficiently inhibited by simultaneous expression of four antiviral siRNAs from the polycistronic miRNA transcript. These combined results indicate that a multiplex miRNA strategy may be a promising therapeutic approach to attack escape-prone viral pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2396423  PMID: 18346971
6.  Trans-inhibition of HIV-1 by a long hairpin RNA expressed within the viral genome 
Retrovirology  2007;4:15.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) can be inhibited by means of RNA silencing or interference (RNAi) using synthetic short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or gene constructs encoding short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) or long hairpin RNAs (lhRNAs). The use of siRNA and shRNA as antiviral therapeutic is limited because of the emergence of viral escape mutants. This problem is theoretically prevented by intracellular expression of lhRNAs generating multiple siRNAs that target the virus simultaneously, thus reducing the chance of viral escape. However, gene constructs encoding lhRNA molecules face problems with delivery to the right cells in an infected individual. In order to solve this problem, we constructed an HIV-1 variant with a 300 bp long hairpin structure in the 3' part of the genome corresponding to the Nef gene (HIV-lhNef).
Intriguingly, HIV-lhNef potently inhibited wild-type HIV-1 production in trans. However, HIV-lhNef demonstrated a severe production and replication defect, which we were able to solve by selecting spontaneous virus variants with truncated hairpin structures. Although these escape variants lost the ability to trans-inhibit HIV-1, they effectively outgrew the wild-type virus in competition experiments in SupT1 cells.
Expression of the lhNef hairpin within the HIV-1 genome results in potent trans-inhibition of wild-type HIV-1. Although the mechanism of trans-inhibition is currently unknown, it remains of interest to study the molecular details because the observed effect is extremely potent. This may have implications for the development of virus strains to be used as live-attenuated virus vaccines.
PMCID: PMC1819390  PMID: 17331227
7.  Hairpin-induced tRNA-mediated (HITME) recombination in HIV-1 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(8):2206-2218.
Recombination due to template switching during reverse transcription is a major source of genetic variability in retroviruses. In the present study we forced a recombination event in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) by electroporation of T cells with DNA from a molecular HIV-1 clone that has a 300 bp long hairpin structure in the Nef gene (HIV-lhNef). HIV-lhNef does not replicate, but replication-competent escape variants emerged in four independent cultures. The major part of the hairpin was deleted in all escape viruses. In three cases, the hairpin deletion was linked to patch insertion of tRNAasp, tRNAglu or tRNAtrp sequences. The tRNAs were inserted in the viral genome in the antisense orientation, indicating that tRNA-mediated recombination occurred during minus-strand DNA synthesis. We here propose a mechanistic model for this hairpin-induced tRNA-mediated (HITME) recombination. The transient role of the cellular tRNA molecule as enhancer of retroviral recombination is illustrated by the eventual removal of inserted tRNA sequences by a subsequent recombination/deletion event.
PMCID: PMC1456326  PMID: 16670429

Results 1-7 (7)