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Nucleic Acids Res. 2006 Jun 23;34(11):3231-8. Print 2006.

Novel oligodeoxynucleotide agonists of TLR9 containing N3-Me-dC or N1-Me-dG modifications.

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Idera Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Synthetic oligodeoxynucleotides containing unmethylated CpG motifs activate Toll-Like Receptor 9 (TLR9). Our previous studies have shown the role of hydrogen-bond donor and acceptor groups of cytosine and guanine in the CpG motif and identified synthetic immunostimulatory motifs. In the present study to elucidate the significance of N3-position of cytosine and N1-position of guanine in the CpG motif, we substituted C or G of a CpG dinucleotide with N3-Me-cytosine or N1-Me-guanine, respectively, in immunomodulatory oligodeoxynucleotides (IMOs). IMOs containing N-Me-cytosine or N-Me-guanine in C- or G-position, respectively, of the CpG dinucleotide showed activation of HEK293 cells expressing TLR9, but not TLR3, 7 or 8. IMOs containing N-Me-cytosine or N-Me-guanine modification showed activity in mouse spleen cell cultures, in vivo in mice, and in human cell cultures. In addition, IMOs containing N-Me-substitutions reversed antigen-induced Th2 immune responses towards a Th1-type in OVA-sensitized mouse spleen cell cultures. These studies suggest that TLR9 tolerates a methyl group at N1-position of G and a methyl group at N3-position of C may interfere with TLR9 activation to some extent. These are the first studies elucidating the role of N3-position of cytosine and N1-position of guanine in a CpG motif for TLR9 activation and immune stimulation.

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