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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Aug 21;104(34):13750-5. Epub 2007 Aug 14.

Stabilized immune modulatory RNA compounds as agonists of Toll-like receptors 7 and 8.

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  • 1Idera Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 167 Sidney Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Viral and synthetic single-stranded RNAs are the ligands for Toll-like receptor (TLR)7 and TLR8. However, single-stranded RNA is rapidly degraded by ubiquitous RNases, and the studies reported to date have used RNA with lipid carriers. To overcome nuclease susceptibility of RNA, we have synthesized several RNAs incorporating a range of chemical modifications. The present study describes one pool of RNA compounds, referred to as stabilized immune modulatory RNA (SIMRA) compounds, in which two RNA segments are attached through their 3' ends. SIMRA compounds showed greater stability in human serum compared with linear RNA and activated human TLR8, but not TLR7, in HEK293 cells without using lipid carriers. Interestingly, another set of SIMRA compounds containing 7-deazaguanosine substituted for natural guanosine activated human TLR7 and TLR8. Additionally, TLR7- and TLR8-activating compounds, but not the compounds that activated only TLR8, stimulated mouse immune cells in vitro and in vivo and produced dose-dependent T helper 1-type cytokines. Both types of compounds activated human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, but only TLR7- and TLR8-activating compounds activated plasmacytoid dendritic cells and produced high levels of IFN-alpha. In monkeys, s.c. administration of both types of SIMRA compounds induced transient changes in peripheral blood monocytes and neutrophils, and activated T lymphocytes, monocytes, and NK cells. Both types of compounds induced IFN-gamma-inducible protein 10, but only the 7-deazaguanosine-containing compound that activated both TLR7 and TLR8 induced IFN-alpha in monkeys. This is a comprehensive study of RNA-based compounds containing structures and synthetic stimulatory motifs in mouse, monkey, and human systems without using lipid carriers.

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