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Hum Gene Ther. 2017 Dec;28(12):1138-1146. doi: 10.1089/hum.2017.121. Epub 2017 Sep 6.

Improvement of In Vivo Expression of Genes Delivered by Self-Amplifying RNA Using Vaccinia Virus Immune Evasion Proteins.

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1 TRON-Translational Oncology , Mainz, Germany .
2 III Medical Clinic at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz , Mainz, Germany .
3 BioNTech AG , Mainz, Germany .
4 BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals GmbH , Mainz, Germany .
5 CI3-Cluster for Individualized Immune Intervention , Mainz, Germany .


Among nucleic acid-based delivery platforms, self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) vectors are of increasing interest for applications such as transient expression of recombinant proteins and vaccination. saRNA is safe and, due to its capability to amplify intracellularly, high protein levels can be produced from even minute amounts of transfected templates. However, it is an obstacle to full exploitation of this platform that saRNA induces a strong innate host immune response. In transfected cells, pattern recognition receptors sense double-stranded RNA intermediates and via activation of protein kinase R (PKR) and interferon signaling initiate host defense measures including a translational shutdown. To reduce pattern recognition receptor stimulation and unleash suppressed saRNA translation, this study co-delivered non-replicating mRNA encoding vaccinia virus immune evasion proteins E3, K3, and B18. It was shown that E3 is far superior to K3 or B18 as a highly potent blocker of PKR activation and of interferon (IFN)-β upregulation. B18, in contrast, is superior in controlling OAS1, a key IFN-inducible gene involved in viral RNA degradation. By combining all three vaccinia proteins, the study achieved significant suppression of PKR and IFN pathway activation in vitro and enhanced expression of saRNA-encoded genes of interest both in vitro and in vivo. This approach promises to overcome key hurdles of saRNA gene delivery. Its application may improve the bioavailability of the encoded protein, and reduce the effective dose and correspondingly the cost of goods of manufacture in the various fields where saRNA utilization is envisioned.


alphavirus; replicon; self-amplifying RNA; vaccinia virus B18; vaccinia virus E3; vaccinia virus K3

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