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Antisense Nucleic Acid Drug Dev. 2002 Jun;12(3):165-75.

Highly immunostimulatory CpG-free oligodeoxynucleotides for activation of human leukocytes.

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Coley Pharmaceutical GmbH, Langenfeld, Germany.


Synthetic oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) bearing CpG dinucleotides can mimic the immunostimulatory effects of bacterial DNA in vertebrates. Besides the known CpG motifs, no other sequence motif has been shown to have independent immunostimulatory effects. Several past investigators have demonstrated that the nucleotide content or the phosphorothioate (PS) backbone may have effects independently of the sequence. However, the effect of both nucleotide content and PS backbone to stimulate human leukocytes is not well understood. We investigated the immunostimulatory activity of 34 PS-ODNs with different nucleotide contents, lengths, and methylation status on human leukocytes. The thymidine content showed strong CpG-independent contribution to immunostimulation. In contrast, ODNs rich in other nucleotides (guanosine, cytosine, or adenosine) induced no or much lower levels of immunostimulation. The observed effects were highly dependent on the PS backbone chemistry. In addition to the base content and the backbone chemistry, the length of the PS-ODN was directly related to the magnitude of its stimulatory effects, especially on B cells. In addition, methylation of CpG dinucleotides did not always cause an abrogation of the immunostimulation. Immunostimulatory effects could be observed with methylated CpG ODNs, specifically as the ODN length was increased from 18 to 24 or more nucleotides (nt). In contrast, PS-ODNs with inverted CpG dinucleotides showed some but only weak immunostimulation. Our results demonstrate that non-CpG ODNs rich in thymidine or ODNs with methylated CpG motifs have length-dependent immunostimulatory effects. Such ODNs can induce effects similar to those seen with CpG ODNs but are much less efficient in stimulating human immune cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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