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J Biol Chem. 1998 Sep 25;273(39):25125-31.

Tetranucleotide GGGA motif in primary RNA transcripts. Novel target site for antisense design.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, USA.


Selecting effective antisense target sites on a given mRNA molecule constitutes a major problem in antisense therapeutics. By trial-and-error, only 1 in 18 (6%) of antisense oligonucleotides designed to target the primary RNA transcript of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) strongly inhibited TNF-alpha synthesis. Subsequent studies showed that the area in RNA targeted by antisense oligonucleotides could be moved effectively 10-15 bases in either direction from the original area. We observed that only molecules that incorporated a tetranucleotide motif TCCC (complementary to GGGA on RNA) yielded potent antisense oligonucleotides against TNF-alpha. A comprehensive literature survey showed that this motif is unwittingly present in 48% of the most potent antisense oligonucleotides reported in the literature. This finding was prospectively used to predict the sequences of additional antisense oligonucleotides for the rat TNF-alpha primary RNA transcript. Over 50% of antisense constructs (13 of 22) containing the TCCC motif were found to effectively inhibit TNF-alpha synthesis. Marked reductions in mRNA were also observed. This motif was found to be most effective when targeting introns in the primary RNA transcript, suggesting a nuclear localization for the antisense action. Predicting target sites based on the presence of this motif in primary RNA transcripts should be of value in the development on new antisense pharmacotherapy.

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