SciCombinator

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Concept: Morpholino

174

Identification of a systemically acting and universal small molecule therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy would be an enormous advance for this condition. Based on evidence gained from studies on mouse genetic models we have identified tyrosine phosphorylation and degradation of β-dystroglycan as a key event in the aetiology of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Thus preventing tyrosine phosphorylation and degradation of β-dystroglycan presents itself as a potential therapeutic strategy. Using the dystrophic sapje zebrafish we have investigated the use of tyrosine kinase and other inhibitors to treat the dystrophic symptoms in this model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Dasatinib, a potent and specific Src tyrosine kinase inhibitor was found to decrease the levels of β-dystroglycan phosphorylation on tyrosine and increase the relative levels of non-phosphorylated β-dystroglycan in sapje zebrafish. Furthermore, dasatinib treatment resulted in the improved physical appearance of the sapje zebrafish musculature and increased swimming ability as measured by both duration and distance of swimming dasatinib treated fish compared to control animals. These data suggest great promise for pharmacological agents that prevent the phosphorylation of β-dystroglycan on tyrosine and subsequent steps in the degradation pathway as therapeutic targets for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Concepts: Morpholino, Protein kinase, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Electromyography, Signal transduction, Enzyme inhibitor, Phosphorylation, Muscular dystrophy

23

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in DMD which disrupt the reading frame. Therapeutic strategies that restore DMD’s reading frame, such as exon skipping and CRISPR/Cas9, need to be tested in the context of the human DMD sequence in vivo. We have developed a novel dystrophic mouse model by using CRISPR/Cas9 to delete exon 45 in the human DMD gene in hDMD mice, which places DMD out-of-frame. We have utilized this model to demonstrate that our clinically-relevant CRISPR/Cas9 platform, which targets deletion of human DMD exons 45-55, can be directly applied in vivo to restore dystrophin.

Concepts: Dystrophin, Genetics, Gene, Spliceosome, Morpholino, Muscular dystrophy, DNA, Duchenne muscular dystrophy

21

Exon skipping is a promising therapeutic strategy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), employing morpholino antisense oligonucleotides (PMO-AO) to exclude disruptive exons from the mutant DMD transcript and elicit production of truncated dystrophin protein. Clinical trials for PMO show variable and sporadic dystrophin rescue. Here, we show that robust PMO uptake and efficient production of dystrophin following PMO administration coincide with areas of myofiber regeneration and inflammation. PMO localization is sustained in inflammatory foci where it enters macrophages, actively differentiating myoblasts and newly forming myotubes. We conclude that efficient PMO delivery into muscle requires two concomitant events: first, accumulation and retention of PMO within inflammatory foci associated with dystrophic lesions, and second, fusion of PMO-loaded myoblasts into repairing myofibers. Identification of these factors accounts for the variability in clinical trials and suggests strategies to improve this therapeutic approach to DMD.Exon skipping is a strategy for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but has variable efficacy. Here, the authors show that dystrophin restoration occurs preferentially in areas of myofiber regeneration, where antisense oligonucleotides are stored in macrophages and delivered to myoblasts and newly formed myotubes.

Concepts: Spliceosome, Electromyography, DNA, Muscle, Oligonucleotide, Muscular dystrophy, Morpholino, Duchenne muscular dystrophy

13

BACKGROUND: In mammals, ABCB1 constitutes a cellular “first line of defense” against a wide array of chemicals and drugs conferring cellular multidrug or multixenobiotic resistance (MDR/MXR). We tested the hypothesis that an ABCB1 ortholog serves as protection of the sensitive developmental processes in zebrafish embryos against adverse compounds dissolved in the water. RESULTS: Indication for ABCB1-type efflux counteracting the accumulation of chemicals in zebrafish embryos comes from experiments with fluorescent and toxic transporter substrates and inhibitors. With inhibitors present, levels of fluorescent dyes in embryo tissue and sensitivity of embryos to toxic substrates were generally elevated. We verified two predicted sequences from zebrafish, previously annotated as abcb1, by cloning; our synteny analyses, however, identified them as abcb4 and abcb5, respectively. The abcb1 gene is absent in the zebrafish genome and we explored whether instead Abcb4 and/or Abcb5 show toxicant defense properties. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analyses showed presence of transcripts of both genes throughout the first 48 hrs of zebrafish development. Similar to transporter inhibitors, morpholino knock-down of Abcb4 increased accumulation of fluorescent substrates in embryo tissue and sensitivity of embryos toward toxic compounds. In contrast, morpholino knock-down of Abcb5 did not exert this effect. ATPase assays with recombinant protein obtained with the baculovirus expression system confirmed that dye and toxic compounds act as substrates of zebrafish Abcb4 and inhibitors block its function. The compounds tested comprised model substrates of human ABCB1, namely the fluorescent dyes rhodamine B and calcein-am and the toxic compounds vinblastine, vincristine and doxorubicin; cyclosporin A, PSC833, MK571 and verapamil were applied as inhibitors. Additionally, tests were performed with ecotoxicologically relevant compounds: phenanthrene (a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) and galaxolide and tonalide (two polycyclic musks). CONCLUSIONS: We show that zebrafish Abcb4 is a cellular toxicant transporter and provides protection of embryos against toxic chemicals dissolved in the water. Zebrafish Abcb4 thus is functionally similar to mammalian ABCB1, but differs to mammalian ABCB4, which is not involved in cellular resistance to chemicals but specifically transports phospholipids in liver. Our data have important implications: Abcb4 could affect bioavailability - and thus toxicologic and pharmacologic potency - of chemicals to zebrafish embryos and inhibition of Abcb4 therefore causes chemosensitization, i.e., enhanced sensitivity of embryos to toxicants. These aspects should be considered in (eco)toxicologic and pharmacologic chemical screens with the zebrafish embryo, a major vertebrate model.

Concepts: Model organism, The First 48, Mammal, Polymerase chain reaction, Morpholino, DNA, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, Zebrafish

8

Until recently, Ebola virus (EBOV) was a rarely encountered human pathogen that caused disease among small populations with extraordinarily high lethality. At the end of 2013, EBOV initiated an unprecedented disease outbreak in West Africa that is still ongoing and has already caused thousands of deaths. Recent studies revealed the genomic changes this particular EBOV variant undergoes over time during human-to-human transmission. Here we highlight the genomic changes that might negatively impact the efficacy of currently available EBOV sequence-based candidate therapeutics, such as small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs), and antibodies. Ten of the observed mutations modify the sequence of the binding sites of monoclonal antibody (MAb) 13F6, MAb 1H3, MAb 6D8, MAb 13C6, and siRNA EK-1, VP24, and VP35 targets and might influence the binding efficacy of the sequence-based therapeutics, suggesting that their efficacy should be reevaluated against the currently circulating strain.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Bacteria, Microbiology, RNA, DNA, Immune system, Morpholino, Protein

8

In prior open-label studies, eteplirsen, a phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMO), enabled dystrophin production in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) with genetic mutations amenable to skipping exon 51. The present study used a double-blind placebo-controlled protocol to test eteplirsen’s ability to induce dystrophin production and improve distance walked on the 6-minute walk test (6MWT).

Concepts: Electromyography, Mutation, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Dystrophin, DNA, Morpholino, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy

4

Antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) hold promise for therapeutic correction of many genetic diseases via exon skipping, and the first AON-based drugs have entered clinical trials for neuromuscular disorders. However, despite advances in AON chemistry and design, systemic use of AONs is limited because of poor tissue uptake, and recent clinical reports confirm that sufficient therapeutic efficacy has not yet been achieved. Here we present a new class of AONs made of tricyclo-DNA (tcDNA), which displays unique pharmacological properties and unprecedented uptake by many tissues after systemic administration. We demonstrate these properties in two mouse models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a neurogenetic disease typically caused by frame-shifting deletions or nonsense mutations in the gene encoding dystrophin and characterized by progressive muscle weakness, cardiomyopathy, respiratory failure and neurocognitive impairment. Although current naked AONs do not enter the heart or cross the blood-brain barrier to any substantial extent, we show that systemic delivery of tcDNA-AONs promotes a high degree of rescue of dystrophin expression in skeletal muscles, the heart and, to a lesser extent, the brain. Our results demonstrate for the first time a physiological improvement of cardio-respiratory functions and a correction of behavioral features in DMD model mice. This makes tcDNA-AON chemistry particularly attractive as a potential future therapy for patients with DMD and other neuromuscular disorders or with other diseases that are eligible for exon-skipping approaches requiring whole-body treatment.

Concepts: Neuromuscular disease, Heart, DNA, Muscle, Morpholino, Muscular dystrophy, Muscular system, Duchenne muscular dystrophy

3

In late 2015, the first example of a transferrable polymyxin resistance mechanism in Gram-negative pathogens, MCR-1, was reported. Since that report, MCR-1 has been described to occur in many Gram-negative pathogens, and the mechanism of MCR-1-mediated resistance was rapidly determined: an ethanolamine is attached to lipid A phosphate groups, rendering the membrane more electropositive and repelling positively charged polymyxins. Acquisition of MCR-1 is clinically significant because polymyxins are frequently last-line antibiotics used to treat extensively resistant organisms, so acquisition of this mechanism might lead to pan-resistant strains. Therefore, the ability to inhibit MCR-1 and restore polymyxin sensitivity would be an important scientific advancement. Peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMOs) are antisense molecules that were designed to target mRNA, preventing translation. Peptide conjugation enhances cellular entry, but they are positively charged, so we tested our lead antibacterial PPMOs by targeting an essential Escherichia coli gene, acpP, and demonstrated that they were still effective in mcr-1-positive E. coli strains. We then designed and synthesized two PPMOs targeted to mcr-1 mRNA. Five clinical mcr-1-positive E. coli strains were resensitized to polymyxins by MCR-1 inhibition, reducing MICs 2- to 16-fold. Finally, therapeutic dosing of BALB/c mice with MCR-1 PPMO combined with colistin in a sepsis model reduced morbidity and bacterial burden in the spleen at 24 h and offered a survival advantage out to 5 days. This is the first example of a way to modulate colistin resistance with an antisense approach and may be a viable strategy to combat this globally emerging antibiotic resistance threat.IMPORTANCE Polymyxin use has been increasing as a last line of defense against Gram-negative pathogens with high-level resistance mechanisms, such as carbapenemases. The recently described MCR-1 is a plasmid-mediated mechanism of resistance to polymyxins. MCR-1 is currently found in Gram-negative organisms already possessing high-level resistance mechanisms, leaving clinicians few or no antibacterial options for infections caused by these strains. This study utilizes antisense molecules that target mRNA, preventing protein translation. Herein we describe antisense molecules that can be directly antibacterial because they target genes essential to bacterial growth or blockade of MCR-1, restoring polymyxin sensitivity. We also demonstrate that MCR-1 antisense molecules restore the efficacies of polymyxins in mouse models of E. coli septicemia. Considering all things together, we demonstrate that antisense molecules may be effective therapeutics either alone when they target an essential gene or combined with antibiotics when they target specific resistance mechanisms, such as those seen with MCR-1.

Concepts: Morpholino, Microbiology, Genetics, Protein, DNA, Escherichia coli, Bacteria, Antibiotic resistance

3

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a rare, severe, progressive muscle-wasting disease leading to disability and premature death. Patients lack the muscle membrane-stabilizing protein dystrophin. Antisense oligonucleotide (AON)-mediated exon skipping is a therapeutic approach that aims to induce production of partially functional dystrophins. Recently, an AON targeting exon 51 became the first of its class to be approved by the United States regulators [Food and Drug Administration (FDA)] for the treatment of DMD. A unique aspect of the exon-skipping approach for DMD is that, depending on the size and location of the mutation, different exons need to be skipped. This challenge raises a number of questions regarding the development and regulatory approval of those individual compounds. In this study, we present a perspective on those questions, following a European stakeholder meeting involving academics, regulators, and representatives from industry and patient organizations, and in the light of the most recent scientific and regulatory experience.

Concepts: Electromyography, Dystrophin, United States, Spliceosome, Morpholino, DNA, Muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy

3

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a lethal genetic disorder caused by an absence of the dystrophin protein in bodywide muscles, including the heart. Cardiomyopathy is a leading cause of death in DMD. Exon skipping via synthetic phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs) represents one of the most promising therapeutic options, yet PMOs have shown very little efficacy in cardiac muscle. To increase therapeutic potency in cardiac muscle, we tested a next-generation morpholino: arginine-rich, cell-penetrating peptide-conjugated PMOs (PPMOs) in the canine X-linked muscular dystrophy in Japan (CXMDJ) dog model of DMD. A PPMO cocktail designed to skip dystrophin exons 6 and 8 was injected intramuscularly, intracoronarily, or intravenously into CXMDJ dogs. Intravenous injections with PPMOs restored dystrophin expression in the myocardium and cardiac Purkinje fibers, as well as skeletal muscles. Vacuole degeneration of cardiac Purkinje fibers, as seen in DMD patients, was ameliorated in PPMO-treated dogs. Although symptoms and functions in skeletal muscle were not ameliorated by i.v. treatment, electrocardiogram abnormalities (increased Q-amplitude and Q/R ratio) were improved in CXMDJ dogs after intracoronary or i.v. administration. No obvious evidence of toxicity was found in blood tests throughout the monitoring period of one or four systemic treatments with the PPMO cocktail (12 mg/kg/injection). The present study reports the rescue of dystrophin expression and recovery of the conduction system in the heart of dystrophic dogs by PPMO-mediated multiexon skipping. We demonstrate that rescued dystrophin expression in the Purkinje fibers leads to the improvement/prevention of cardiac conduction abnormalities in the dystrophic heart.

Concepts: Electrical conduction system of the heart, Purkinje fibers, Muscular system, Muscle, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Morpholino, Cardiac muscle, Heart