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Oligonucleotides Tethered to a Short Polyguanylic Acid Stretch Are Targeted to Macrophages: Enhanced Antiviral Activity of a Vesicular Stomatitis Vir


The poor membrane permeability of oligonucleotides is one of the major problems of antisense technology. Here we report the construction of designer oligonucleotides for targeted delivery to macrophages. The oligonucleotides tethered to a 10-mer poly(G) sequence at their 3 * ends were recognized by scavenger receptors on macrophages and were taken up about 8- to 10-fold as efficiently as those oligonucleotides that either lacked a poly(G) tail or that contained a 10-mer poly(C) tail instead of the poly(G) tail. The enhanced uptake of poly(G) constructs was inhibited in the presence of poly(G) and other known ligands of the scavenger receptor. The bioefficacy of poly(G)-mediated targeting of antisense oligonucleotides (ANS) was demonstrated by using vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) as a model system. The ability of ANS directed against the translation initiation site of N protein mRNA of VSV to inhibit virus replication was assessed. The ANS with the 10-mer poly(G) sequences (ANS-G) brought about significant inhibition of VSV replication in J774E cells (a murine monocyte/macrophage cell line) and Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell transfectants expressing scavenger receptors. The ANS lacking a 10-mer poly(G) stretch were ineffective. The inhibition of VSV replication due to ANS-G was completely abrogated in the presence of 10-mer poly(G), indicating that the antisense effect of the ANS-G molecule was a consequence of scavenger receptor-mediated enhanced uptake. Importantly, antisense molecules linked exclusively by natural phosphodiester bonds were as bioeffective as those synthesized with a mixed backbone of phosphodiester and phosphorothioate. Taken together, these results suggest that macrophage- directed designer ANS against infective agents may simply be obtained by adding a short stretch of guanylic acid sequence to the desired specific ANS during solid-phase synthesis. This nucleic acid-based strategy, which utilizes homogeneous preparation of ANS, may find applications in directed manipulation of macrophage metabolism for a variety of purposes as well as in therapy of a broad spectrum of macrophagerelated disorders amenable to the antisense approach.