Author(s): Gavrilov K, Seo YE, Tietjen GT, Cui J, Cheng CJ,
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Abstract Canonical siRNA design algorithms have become remarkably effective at predicting favorable binding regions within a target mRNA, but in some cases (e.g., a fusion junction site) region choice is restricted. In these instances, alternative approaches are necessary to obtain a highly potent silencing molecule. Here we focus on strategies for rational optimization of two siRNAs that target the junction sites of fusion oncogenes BCR-ABL and TMPRSS2-ERG. We demonstrate that modifying the termini of these siRNAs with a terminal G-U wobble pair or a carefully selected pair of terminal asymmetry-enhancing mismatches can result in an increase in potency at low doses. Importantly, we observed that improvements in silencing at the mRNA level do not necessarily translate to reductions in protein level and/or cell death. Decline in protein level is also heavily influenced by targeted protein half-life, and delivery vehicle toxicity can confound measures of cell death due to silencing. Therefore, for BCR-ABL, which has a long protein half-life that is difficult to overcome using siRNA, we also developed a nontoxic transfection vector: poly(lactic-coglycolic acid) nanoparticles that release siRNA over many days. We show that this system can achieve effective killing of leukemic cells. These findings provide insights into the implications of siRNA sequence for potency and suggest strategies for the design of more effective therapeutic siRNA molecules. Furthermore, this work points to the importance of integrating studies of siRNA design and delivery, while heeding and addressing potential limitations such as restricted targetable mRNA regions, long protein half-lives, and nonspecific toxicities.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Leukemia