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Nucleic Acids Res. 2008 May;36(9):2811-24. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkn109. Epub 2008 Mar 16.

Inhibition of HIV-1 by multiple siRNAs expressed from a single microRNA polycistron.

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Laboratory of Experimental Virology, Department of Medical Microbiology, Center for Infection and Immunity Amsterdam (CINIMA), Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful approach to inhibit human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) replication. However, HIV-1 can escape from RNAi-mediated antiviral therapy by selection of mutations in the targeted sequence. To prevent viral escape, multiple small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) against conserved viral sequences should be combined. Ideally, these RNA inhibitors should be expressed simultaneously from a single transgene transcript. In this study, we tested a multiplex microRNA (miRNA) expression strategy by inserting multiple effective anti-HIV siRNA sequences in the miRNA polycistron mir-17-92. Individual anti-HIV miRNAs that resemble the natural miRNA structures were optimized by varying the siRNA position in the hairpin stem to obtain maximal effectiveness against luciferase reporters and HIV-1. We show that an antiviral miRNA construct can have a greater intrinsic inhibitory activity than a conventional short hairpin (shRNA) construct. When combined in a polycistron setting, the silencing activity of an individual miRNA is strongly boosted. We demonstrate that HIV-1 replication can be efficiently inhibited by simultaneous expression of four antiviral siRNAs from the polycistronic miRNA transcript. These combined results indicate that a multiplex miRNA strategy may be a promising therapeutic approach to attack escape-prone viral pathogens.

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