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Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Mar 16;46(5):2204-2217. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky060.

Acute hepatotoxicity of 2' fluoro-modified 5-10-5 gapmer phosphorothioate oligonucleotides in mice correlates with intracellular protein binding and the loss of DBHS proteins.

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Department of Core Antisense Research, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 2855 Gazelle Court, Carlsbad, CA 92010, USA.


We reported previously that a 2' fluoro-modified (2' F) phosphorothioate (PS) antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) with 5-10-5 gapmer configuration interacted with proteins from Drosophila behavior/human splicing (DBHS) family with higher affinity than PS-ASOs modified with 2'-O-(2-methoxyethyl) (2' MOE) or 2',4'-constrained 2'-O-ethyl (cEt) did. Rapid degradation of these proteins and cytotoxicity were observed in cells treated with 2' F PS-ASO. Here, we report that 2' F gapmer PS-ASOs of different sequences caused reduction in levels of DBHS proteins and hepatotoxicity in mice. 2' F PS-ASOs induced activation of the P53 pathway and downregulation of metabolic pathways. Altered levels of RNA and protein markers for hepatotoxicity, liver necrosis, and apoptosis were observed as early as 24 to 48 hours after a single administration of the 2' F PS-ASO. The observed effects were not likely due to the hybridization-dependent RNase H1 cleavage of on- or potential off-target RNAs, or due to potential toxicity of 2' F nucleoside metabolites. Instead, we found that 2' F PS-ASO associated with more intra-cellular proteins including proteins from DBHS family. Our results suggest that protein-binding correlates positively with the 2' F modification-dependent loss of DBHS proteins and the toxicity of gapmer 2' F PS-ASO in vivo.

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