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Journal: Molecular therapy. Nucleic acids


Myostatin (MSTN) is a negative regulator of skeletal muscle mass. Strategies to block myostatin signaling pathway have been extensively pursued to increase muscle mass in various disease settings including muscular dystrophy. Here, we report a new class of reagents based on transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) to disrupt myostatin expression at the genome level. We designed a pair of MSTN TALENs to target a highly conserved sequence in the coding region of the myostatin gene. We demonstrate that codelivery of these MSTN TALENs induce highly specific and efficient gene disruption in a variety of human, cattle, and mouse cells. Based upon sequence analysis, this pair of TALENs is expected to be functional in many other mammalian species. Moreover, we demonstrate that these MSTN TALENs can facilitate targeted integration of a mCherry expression cassette or a larger muscular dystrophy gene (dysferlin) expression cassette into the MSTN locus in mouse or human cells. Therefore, targeted editing of the myostatin gene using our highly specific and efficient TALEN pair would facilitate cell engineering, allowing potential use in translational research for cell-based therapy.Molecular Therapy-Nucleic Acids (2013) 2, e112; doi:10.1038/mtna.2013.39; published online 30 July 2013.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Organism, Muscle, Muscular system, Muscular dystrophy, Conserved sequence


Alternative splicing (AS), an important post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism that regulates the translation of mRNA isoforms and generates protein diversity, has been widely demonstrated to be associated with oncogenic processes. In this study, we systematically analyzed genome-wide AS patterns to explore the prognostic implications of AS in endometrial cancer (EC). A total of 2,324 AS events were identified as being associated with the overall survival of EC patients, and eleven of these events were further selected using a random forest algorithm. With the implementation of a generalized, boosted regression model, a prognostic AS model that aggregated these eleven markers was ultimately established with high performance for risk stratification in EC patients. Functional analysis of these eleven AS markers revealed various potential signaling pathways implicated in the progression of EC. Splicing network analysis demonstrated the notable correlation between the expression of splicing factors and AS markers in EC and further determined eight candidate splicing factors that could be therapeutic targets for EC. Taken together, the results of this study present the utility of AS profiling in identifying biomarkers for the prognosis of EC and provide comprehensive insight into the molecular mechanisms involved in EC processes.


HER family members are interdependent and functionally compensatory. Simultaneously targeting EGFR/HER2/HER3 by antibody combinations has demonstrated superior treatment efficacy over targeting one HER receptor. However, antibody combinations have their limitations, with high immunogenicity and high cost. In this study, we have developed a three-in-one nucleic acid aptamer-small interfering RNA (siRNA) chimera, which targets EGFR/HER2/HER3 in one molecule. This inhibitory molecule was constructed such that a single EGFR siRNA is positioned between the HER2 and HER3 aptamers to create a HER2 aptamer-EGFR siRNA-HER3 aptamer chimera (H2EH3). EGFR siRNA was delivered into HER2-expressing cells by HER2/HER3 aptamer-induced internalization. HER2/HER3 aptamers act as antagonist molecules for blocking HER2 and HER3 signaling pathways and also as tumor-targeting agents for siRNA delivery. H2EH3 enables down-modulation of the expression of all three receptors, thereby triggering cell apoptosis. In breast cancer xenograft models, H2EH3 is able to bind to breast tumors with high specificity and significantly inhibits tumor growth via either systemic or intratumoral administration. Owing to low immunogenicity, ease of production, and high thermostability, H2EH3 is a promising therapeutic to supplement current single HER inhibitors and may act as a treatment for HER2+breast cancer with intrinsic or acquired resistance to current drugs.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Protein, Cancer, Breast cancer, Signal transduction, Hormone, Receptor


Development of a gene delivery system with high efficiency and a good safety profile is essential for successful gene therapy. Here we developed a targeted non-viral delivery system using a multifunctional lipid ECO for treating Leber’s congenital amaurosis type 2 (LCA2) and tested this in a mouse model. ECO formed stable nanoparticles with plasmid DNA (pDNA) at a low amine to phosphate (N/P) ratio and mediated high gene transfection efficiency in ARPE-19 cells because of their intrinsic properties of pH-sensitive amphiphilic endosomal escape and reductive cytosolic release (PERC). All-trans-retinylamine, which binds to interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP), was incorporated into the nanoparticles via a polyethylene glycol (PEG) spacer for targeted delivery of pDNA into the retinal pigmented epithelium. The targeted ECO/pDNA nanoparticles provided high GFP expression in the RPE of 1-month-old Rpe65(-/-) mice after subretinal injection. Such mice also exhibited a significant increase in electroretinographic activity, and this therapeutic effect continued for at least 120 days. A safety study in wild-type BALB/c mice indicated no irreversible retinal damage following subretinal injection of these targeted nanoparticles. All-trans-retinylamine-modified ECO/pDNA nanoparticles provide a promising non-viral platform for safe and effective treatment of RPE-specific monogenic eye diseases such as LCA2.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell, Molecular biology, Plasmid, Leber's congenital amaurosis, Amaurosis, Gene delivery


TT-034 (PF-05095808) is a recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 8 (AAV8) agent expressing three short hairpin RNA (shRNA) pro-drugs that target the hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA genome. The cytosolic enzyme Dicer cleaves each shRNA into multiple, potentially active small interfering RNA (siRNA) drugs. Using next-generation sequencing (NGS) to identify and characterize active shRNAs maturation products, we observed that each TT-034-encoded shRNA could be processed into as many as 95 separate siRNA strands. Few of these appeared active as determined by Sanger 5' RNA Ligase-Mediated Rapid Amplification of cDNA Ends (5-RACE) and through synthetic shRNA and siRNA analogue studies. Moreover, NGS scrutiny applied on 5-RACE products (RACE-seq) suggested that synthetic siRNAs could direct cleavage in not one, but up to five separate positions on targeted RNA, in a sequence-dependent manner. These data support an on-target mechanism of action for TT-034 without cytotoxicity and question the accepted precision of substrate processing by the key RNA interference (RNAi) enzymes Dicer and siRNA-induced silencing complex (siRISC).Molecular Therapy-Nucleic Acids (2014) 3, e145; doi:10.1038/mtna.2013.73; published online 4 February 2014.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Virus, RNA, Small interfering RNA, RNA interference, Gene silencing, Dicer


Gene transfer into hCD34(+) hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSCs) using human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-based lentiviral vectors (LVs) has several promising therapeutic applications. Yet, efficiency, safety, and cost of LV gene therapy could be ameliorated by enhancing target cell transduction levels and reducing the amount of LV used on the cells. Several transduction enhancers already exist such as fibronectin fragments and cationic compounds, but all present limitations. In this study, we describe a new transduction enhancer called Vectofusin-1, which is a short cationic peptide, active on several LV pseudotypes. Vectofusin-1 is used as a soluble additive to safely increase the frequency of transduced HSCs and to augment the level of transduction to one or two copies of vector per cell in a vector dose-dependent manner. Vectofusin-1 acts at the entry step by promoting the adhesion and the fusion between viral and cellular membranes. Vectofusin-1 is therefore a promising additive that could significantly ameliorate hCD34(+) cell-based gene therapy.Molecular Therapy-Nucleic Acids (2013) 2, e90; doi:10.1038/mtna.2013.17; published online 7 May 2013.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Bacteria, Virus, Cell membrane, Viral vector


Current acute myeloid leukemia (AML) disease models face severe limitations because most of them induce un-physiological gene expressions that do not represent conditions in AML patients and/or depend on external promoters for regulation of gene expression/repression. Furthermore, many AML models are based on reciprocal chromosomal translocations that only reflect the minority of AML patients, whereas more than 50% of patients have a normal karyotype. The majority of AML, however, is driven by somatic mutations. Thus, identification as well as a detailed molecular and functional characterization of the role of these driver mutations via improved AML models is required for better approaches toward novel targeted therapies. Using the IDH2 R140Q mutation as a model, we present a new effective methodology here using the RNA-guided clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 system to reproduce or remove AML-associated mutations in or from human leukemic cells, respectively, via introduction of a DNA template at the endogenous gene locus via homologous recombination. Our technology represents a precise way for AML modeling to gain insights into AML development and progression and provides a basis for future therapeutic approaches.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Cancer, DNA repair, Leukemia, Acute myeloid leukemia


PCTAIRE1/CDK16/PCTK1 plays critical roles in cancer cell proliferation and antiapoptosis. To advance our previously published in vitro results with PCTAIRE1 silencing, we examined the in vivo therapeutic potential of this approach by using small interfering RNA (siRNA) encapsulated by lipid nanoparticles. Therapy experiments of PCTAIRE1 siRNA were performed using human HCT116 colorectal cancer cells and human A2058 melanoma cells. A single dose of PCTAIRE1 siRNA-lipid nanoparticles was found to be highly effective in reducing in vivo PCTAIRE1 expression for up to 4 days as assayed by immunoblotting. Therapy experiments were started 4 days after subcutaneous injection of cancer cells. Treatment with PCTAIRE1 siRNA-lipid nanoparticles (0.5 mg/kg RNA, twice a week) reduced tumor volume and weight significantly compared with the scramble-control group. Histopathological analysis (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling) showed increased apoptosis of tumor cells treated with PCTAIRE1-siRNA. Overall, our results demonstrate that siRNA treatment targeting PCTAIRE1 is effective in vivo, suggesting that PCTAIRE1 siRNA-lipid nanoparticles might be a novel therapeutic approach against cancer cells.

Concepts: Gene expression, Cancer, Oncology, Cell division, Colorectal cancer, Benign tumor, Tumor, Neoplasm


Triantennary N-acetyl galactosamine (GalNAc3)-conjugated antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) have greatly improved potency via receptor-mediated uptake. In the present study, the in vivo pharmacology of a 2'-O-(2-methoxyethyl)-modified ASO conjugated with GalNAc3 (ISIS 681257) together with its unmodified congener (ISIS 494372) targeting human apolipoprotein (a) (apo(a)), were studied in human LPA transgenic mice. Further, the disposition kinetics of ISIS 681257 was studied in CD-1 mice. ISIS 681257 demonstrated over 20-fold improvement in potency over ISIS 494372 as measured by liver apo(a) mRNA and plasma apo(a) protein levels. Following subcutaneous (SC) dosing, ISIS 681257 cleared rapidly from plasma and distributed to tissues. Intact ISIS 681257 was the major full-length oligonucleotide species in plasma. In tissues, however, GalNAc sugar moiety was rapidly metabolized and unconjugated ISIS 681257 accounted > 97% of the total exposure, which was then cleared slowly from tissues with a half-life of 7-8 days, similar to the half-life in plasma. ISIS 681257 is highly bound to plasma proteins (> 94% bound), which limited its urinary excretion. This study confirmed dose-dependent exposure to the parent drug ISIS 681257 in plasma and rapid conversion to unconjugated ASO in tissues. Safety data and the extended half-life support its further development and weekly dosing in phase 1 clinical studies.

Concepts: Protein, Pharmacology, Molecular biology, C-reactive protein, N-Acetylgalactosamine, Oligonucleotide, Galactosamine, N-Acetylglucosamine


Using a TALEN-mediated gene-editing approach, we have previously described a process for the large-scale manufacturing of “off-the-shelf” CAR T cells from third-party donor T cells by disrupting the gene encoding TCRα constant chain (TRAC). Taking advantage of a previously described strategy to control TALEN targeting based on the exclusion capacities of non-conventional RVDs, we have developed highly efficient and specific nucleases targeting a key T cell immune checkpoint, PD-1, to improve engineered CAR T cells' functionalities. Here, we demonstrate that this approach allows combined TRAC and PDCD1 TALEN processing at the desired locus while eliminating low-frequency off-site processing. Thus, by replacing few RVDs, we provide here an easy and rapid redesign of optimal TALEN combinations. We anticipate that this method can greatly benefit multiplex editing, which is of key importance especially for therapeutic applications where high editing efficiencies need to be associated with maximal specificity and safety.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Improve, Chromosome, T cell