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Oligonucleotides. 2007 Summer;17(2):223-36.

shRNAs targeting hepatitis C: effects of sequence and structural features, and comparision with siRNA.

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SomaGenics, Inc., Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a leading cause of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma worldwide. Currently available treatment options are of limited efficacy, and there is an urgent need for development of alternative therapies. RNA interference (RNAi) is a natural mechanism by which small interfering RNA (siRNA) or short hairpin RNA (shRNA) can mediate degradation of a target RNA molecule in a sequence-specific manner. In this study, we screened in vitro-transcribed 25-bp shRNAs targeting the internal ribosome entry site (IRES) of HCV for the ability to inhibit IRES-driven gene expression in cultured cells. We identified a 44-nt region at the 3'-end of the IRES within which all shRNAs efficiently inhibited expression of an IRES-linked reporter gene. Subsequent scans within this region with 19-bp shRNAs identified even more potent molecules, providing effective inhibition at concentrations of 0.1 nM. Experiments varying features of the shRNA design showed that, for 25-bp shRNAs, neither the size of the loop (4-10 nt) nor the sequence or pairing status of the ends affects activity, whereas in the case of 19-bp shRNAs, larger loops and the presence of a 3'-UU overhang increase efficacy. A comparison of shRNAs and siRNAs targeting the same sequence revealed that shRNAs were of comparable or greater potency than the corresponding siRNAs. Anti-HCV activity was confirmed with HCV subgenomic replicons in a human hepatocyte line. The results indicate that shRNAs, which can be prepared by either transcription or chemical synthesis, may be effective agents for the control of HCV.

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