Antisense-induced multiexon skipping for Duchenne muscular dystrophy makes more sense.
ABSTRACT: Dystrophin deficiency, which leads to severe and progressive muscle degeneration in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), is caused by frameshifting mutations in the dystrophin gene. A relatively new therapeutic strategy is based on antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) that induce the specific skipping of a single exon, such that the reading frame is restored. This allows the synthesis of a largely functional dystrophin, associated with a milder Becker muscular dystrophy phenotype. We have previously successfully targeted 20 different DMD exons that would, theoretically, be beneficial for >75% of all patients. To further enlarge this proportion, we here studied the feasibility of double and multiexon skipping. Using a combination of AONs, double skipping of exon 43 and 44 was induced, and dystrophin synthesis was restored in myotubes from one patient affected by a nonsense mutation in exon 43. For another patient, with an exon 46-50 deletion, the therapeutic double skipping of exon 45 and 51 was achieved. Remarkably, in control myotubes, the latter combination of AONs caused the skipping of the entire stretch of exons from 45 through 51. This in-frame multiexon skipping would be therapeutic for a series of patients carrying different DMD-causing mutations. In fact, we here demonstrate its feasibility in myotubes from a patient with an exon 48-50 deletion. The application of multiexon skipping may provide a more uniform methodology for a larger group of patients with DMD.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Myostatin is a potent muscle growth inhibitor that belongs to the Transforming Growth Factor-? (TGF-?) family. Mutations leading to non functional myostatin have been associated with hypermuscularity in several organisms. By contrast, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterized by a loss of muscle fibers and impaired regeneration. In this study, we aim to knockdown myostatin by means of exon skipping, a technique which has been successfully applied to reframe the genetic defect of dystrophin gene in DMD patients.<h4>Methods</h4>We targeted myostatin exon 2 using antisense oligonucleotides (AON) in healthy and DMD-derived myotubes cultures. We assessed the exon skipping level, transcriptional expression of myostatin and its target genes, and combined myostatin and several dystrophin AONs. These AONs were also applied in the mdx mice models via intramuscular injections.<h4>Results</h4>Myostatin AON induced exon 2 skipping in cell cultures and to a lower extent in the mdx mice. It was accompanied by decrease in myostatin mRNA and enhanced MYOG and MYF5 expression. Furthermore, combination of myostatin and dystrophin AONs induced simultaneous skipping of both genes.<h4>Conclusions</h4>We conclude that two AONs can be used to target two different genes, MSTN and DMD, in a straightforward manner. Targeting multiple ligands of TGF-beta family will be more promising as adjuvant therapies for DMD.
Project description:Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe muscle-wasting disease generally caused by reading frame disrupting mutations in the DMD gene resulting in loss of functional dystrophin protein. The reading frame can be restored by antisense oligonucleotide (AON)-mediated exon skipping, allowing production of internally deleted, but partially functional dystrophin proteins as found in the less severe Becker muscular dystrophy. Due to genetic variation between species, mouse models with mutations in the murine genes are of limited use to test and further optimize human specific AONs in vivo. To address this we have generated the del52hDMD/mdx mouse. This model carries both murine and human DMD genes. However, mouse dystrophin expression is abolished due to a stop mutation in exon 23, while the expression of human dystrophin is abolished due to a deletion of exon 52. The del52hDMD/mdx model, like mdx, shows signs of muscle dystrophy on a histological level and phenotypically mild functional impairment. Local administration of human specific vivo morpholinos induces exon skipping and dystrophin restoration in these mice. Depending on the number of mismatches, occasional skipping of the murine Dmd gene, albeit at low levels, could be observed. Unlike previous models, the del52hDMD/mdx model enables the in vivo analysis of human specific AONs targeting exon 51 or exon 53 on RNA and protein level and muscle quality and function. Therefore, it will be a valuable tool for optimizing human specific AONs and genome editing approaches for DMD.
Project description:Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe muscle wasting disorder typically caused by frame-shifting mutations in the DMD gene. Restoration of the reading frame would allow the production of a shorter but partly functional dystrophin protein as seen in Becker muscular dystrophy patients. This can be achieved with antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) that induce skipping of specific exons during pre-mRNA splicing. Different chemical modifications have been developed to improve AON properties. The 2'-deoxy-2'-fluoro (2F) RNA modification is attractive for exon skipping due to its ability to recruit ILF2/3 proteins to the 2F/pre-mRNA duplex, which resulted in enhanced exon skipping in spinal muscular atrophy models. In this study, we examined the effect of two different 2'-substituted AONs (2'-F phosphorothioate (2FPS) and 2'-O-Me phosphorothioate (2OMePS)) on exon skipping in DMD cell and animal models. In human cell cultures, 2FPS AONs showed higher exon skipping levels than their isosequential 2OMePS counterparts. Interestingly, in the mdx mouse model, 2FPS was less efficient than 2OMePS and suggested safety issues as evidenced by increased spleen size and weight loss. Our results do not support a clinical application for 2FPS AON.
Project description:One therapeutic approach to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) recently entering clinical trials aims to convert DMD phenotypes to that of a milder disease variant, Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD), by employing antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) targeting splice sites, to induce exon skipping and restore partial dystrophin function. In order to search for small molecule and genetic modulators of AON-dependent and independent exon skipping, we screened approximately 10,000 known small molecule drugs, >17,000 cDNA clones, and >2,000 kinase- targeted siRNAs against a 5.6 kb luciferase minigene construct, encompassing exon 71 to exon 73 of human dystrophin. As a result, we identified several enhancers of exon skipping, acting on both the reporter construct as well as endogenous dystrophin in mdx cells. Multiple mechanisms of action were identified, including histone deacetylase inhibition, tubulin modulation and pre-mRNA processing. Among others, the nucleolar protein NOL8 and staufen RNA binding protein homolog 2 (Stau2) were found to induce endogenous exon skipping in mdx cells in an AON-dependent fashion. An unexpected but recurrent theme observed in our screening efforts was the apparent link between the inhibition of cell cycle progression and the induction of exon skipping.
Project description:Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe muscle-wasting disease caused by frameshift or nonsense mutations in the <i>DMD</i> gene, resulting in the loss of dystrophin from muscle membranes. Exon skipping using splice-switching oligonucleotides (SSOs) restores the reading frame of <i>DMD</i> pre-mRNA by generating internally truncated but functional dystrophin protein. To potentiate effective tissue-specific targeting by functional SSOs, it is essential to perform accelerated and reliable <i>in vitro</i> screening-based assessment of novel oligonucleotides and drug delivery technologies, such as cell-penetrating peptides, before their <i>in vivo</i> pharmacokinetic and toxicity evaluation. We have established novel canine immortalized myoblast lines by transducing murine cyclin-dependent kinase-4 and human telomerase reverse transcriptase genes into myoblasts isolated from beagle-based wild-type or canine X-linked muscular dystrophy in Japan (CXMD<sub>J</sub>) dogs. These myoblast lines exhibited improved myogenic differentiation and increased proliferation rates compared with passage-15 primary parental myoblasts, and their potential to differentiate into myotubes was maintained in later passages. Using these dystrophin-deficient immortalized myoblast lines, we demonstrate that a novel cell-penetrating peptide (Pip8b2)-conjugated SSO markedly improved multiexon skipping activity compared with the respective naked phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers. <i>In vitro</i> screening using immortalized canine cell lines will provide a basis for further pharmacological studies on drug delivery tools.
Project description:Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by the inability to produce dystrophin protein at the myofiber membrane. A method to rescue dystrophin production by antisense oligonucleotides, termed exon-skipping, has been reported for the mdx mouse and in four DMD patients by local intramuscular injection. We sought to test efficacy and toxicity of intravenous oligonucleotide (morpholino)-induced exon skipping in the DMD dog model.We tested a series of antisense drugs singly and as cocktails, both in primary cell culture, and two in vivo delivery methods (intramuscular injection and systemic intravenous injection). The efficiency and efficacy of multiexon skipping (exons 6-9) were tested at the messenger RNA, protein, histological, and clinical levels.Weekly or biweekly systemic intravenous injections with a three-morpholino cocktail over the course of 5 to 22 weeks induced therapeutic levels of dystrophin expression throughout the body, with an average of about 26% normal levels. This was accompanied by reduced inflammatory signals examined by magnetic resonance imaging and histology, improved or stabilized timed running tests, and clinical symptoms. Blood tests indicated no evidence of toxicity.This is the first report of widespread rescue of dystrophin expression to therapeutic levels in the dog model of DMD. This study also provides a proof of concept for systemic multiexon-skipping therapy. Use of cocktails of morpholino, as shown here, allows broader application of this approach to a greater proportion of DMD patients (90%) and also offers the prospect of selecting deletions that optimize the functionality of the dystrophin protein.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Antisense oligonucleotide-induced exon skipping is a promising approach for treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). We have systemically administered an antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMO) targeting dystrophin exons 6 and 8 to a dog with canine X-linked muscular dystrophy in Japan (CXMD(J)) lacking exon 7 and achieved recovery of dystrophin in skeletal muscle. To date, however, antisense chemical compounds used in DMD animal models have not been directly applied to a DMD patient having the same type of exon deletion. We recently identified a DMD patient with an exon 7 deletion and tried direct translation of the antisense PMO used in dog models to the DMD patient's cells. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We converted fibroblasts of CXMD(J) and the DMD patient to myotubes by FACS-aided MyoD transduction. Antisense PMOs targeting identical regions of dog and human dystrophin exons 6 and 8 were designed. These antisense PMOs were mixed and administered as a cocktail to either dog or human cells in vitro. In the CXMD(J) and human DMD cells, we observed a similar efficacy of skipping of exons 6 and 8 and a similar extent of dystrophin protein recovery. The accompanying skipping of exon 9, which did not alter the reading frame, was different between cells of these two species. CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: Antisense PMOs, the effectiveness of which has been demonstrated in a dog model, achieved multi-exon skipping of dystrophin gene on the FACS-aided MyoD-transduced fibroblasts from an exon 7-deleted DMD patient, suggesting the feasibility of systemic multi-exon skipping in humans.
Project description:Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe, progressive muscle wasting disorder caused by reading frame disrupting mutations in the DMD gene. Exon skipping is a therapeutic approach for DMD. It employs antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) to restore the disrupted open reading frame, allowing the production of shorter, but partly functional dystrophin protein as seen in less severely affected Becker muscular dystrophy patients. To be effective, AONs need to be delivered and effectively taken up by the target cells, which can be accomplished by the conjugation of tissue-homing peptides. We performed phage display screens using a cyclic peptide library combined with next generation sequencing analyses to identify candidate muscle-homing peptides. Conjugation of the lead peptide to 2'-O-methyl phosphorothioate AONs enabled a significant, 2-fold increase in delivery and exon skipping in all analyzed skeletal and cardiac muscle of mdx mice and appeared well tolerated. While selected as a muscle-homing peptide, uptake was increased in liver and kidney as well. The homing capacity of the peptide may have been overruled by the natural biodistribution of the AON. Nonetheless, our results suggest that the identified peptide has the potential to facilitate delivery of AONs and perhaps other compounds to skeletal and cardiac muscle.
Project description:Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal disorder characterised by progressive muscle wasting. It is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, which disrupt the open reading frame leading to the loss of functional dystrophin protein in muscle fibres. Antisense oligonucleotide (AON)-mediated skipping of the mutated exon, which allows production of a truncated but partially functional dystrophin protein, has been at the forefront of DMD therapeutic research for over two decades. Nonetheless, novel nucleic acid modifications and AON designs are continuously being developed to improve the clinical benefit profile of current drugs in the DMD pipeline. We herein designed a series of 15mer and 20mer AONs, consisting of 2'<i>O</i>-Methyl (2'<i>O</i>Me)- and locked nucleic acid (LNA)-modified nucleotides in different percentage compositions, and assessed their efficiency in inducing exon 23 skipping and dystrophin restoration in locally injected muscles of mdx mice. We demonstrate that LNA/2'<i>O</i>Me AONs with a 30% LNA composition were significantly more potent in inducing exon skipping and dystrophin restoration in treated mdx muscles, compared to a previously tested 2'<i>O</i>Me AON and LNA/2'<i>O</i>Me chimeras with lower or higher LNA compositions. These results underscore the therapeutic potential of LNA/2'<i>O</i>Me AONs, paving the way for further experimentation to evaluate their benefit-toxicity profile following systemic delivery.
Project description:In Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), dystrophin deficiency leading to progressive muscular degeneration is caused by frame-shifting mutations in the DMD gene. Antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) aim to restore the reading frame by skipping of a specific exon(s), thereby allowing the production of a shorter, but semifunctional protein, as is found in the mostly more mildly affected patients with Becker muscular dystrophy. AONs are currently being investigated in phase 3 placebo-controlled clinical trials. Most of the participating patients are treated symptomatically with corticosteroids (mainly predniso[lo]ne) to stabilize the muscle fibers, which might affect the uptake and/or efficiency of AONs. Therefore the effect of prednisolone on 2'-O-methyl phosphorothioate AON efficacy in patient-derived cultured muscle cells and the mdx mouse model (after local and systemic AON treatment) was assessed in this study. Both in vitro and in vivo skip efficiency and biomarker expression were comparable between saline- and prednisolone-cotreated cells and mice. After systemic exon 23-specific AON (23AON) treatment for 8 weeks, dystrophin was detectable in all treated mice. Western blot analyses indicated slightly higher dystrophin levels in prednisolone-treated mice, which might be explained by better muscle condition and consequently more target dystrophin pre-mRNA. In addition, fibrotic and regeneration biomarkers were normalized to some extent in prednisolone- and/or 23AON-treated mice. Overall these results show that the use of prednisone forms no barrier to participation in clinical trials with AONs.