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Hepatology. 2003 Aug;38(2):503-8.

A potent and specific morpholino antisense inhibitor of hepatitis C translation in mice.

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Program in Human Gene Therapy, Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an RNA virus infecting one in every 40 people worldwide. Current treatments are ineffective and HCV is the leading cause of liver failure leading to transplantation in the United States and Europe. Translational control of HCV is a prime therapeutic target. We assessed the inhibitory potential of morpholino phosphoramidate antisense oligonucleotides (morpholinos) on HCV translation by codelivering them with reporter plasmids expressing firefly luciferase under the translational control of the HCV internal ribosome entry site (IRES) into the livers of mice. Real-time imaging of HCV IRES luciferase reporter messenger RNA (mRNA) translation in living mice showed that a 20-mer complementary to nucleotides 345-365 of the IRES inhibited translation by greater than 95% for at least 6 days and showed mismatch specificity. No significant nonspecific inhibition of a cap-dependent luciferase or encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) IRES luciferase reporter translation was observed. Inhibition by the 20-mer morpholino was dose dependent, with 1 nmol/mouse giving the highest inhibition. In conclusion, morpholino antisense oligonucleotides are potent inhibitors of HCV IRES translation in a preclinical mouse model; morpholinos have potential as molecular therapeutics for treating HCV and other viral infections. The in vivo model described is a broadly applicable, straightforward, and rapid readout for inhibitor efficacy. As such, it will greatly facilitate the development of novel therapeutic strategies for viral hepatitis. Notably, the level of antisense inhibition observed in this in vivo model is similar to the maximal inhibition we have obtained previously with RNA interference in mice.

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