Chen S, Le BT, Chakravarthy M, Kosbar TR, Veedu RN. Systematic evaluation of 2′-Fluoro modified chimeric antisense oligonucleotide-mediated exon skipping in vitro. Scientific reports 2019;9:6078
Antisense oligonucleotide (AO)-mediated splice modulation has been established as a therapeutic approach for tackling genetic diseases. Recently, Exondys51, a drug that aims to correct splicing defects in the dystrophin gene was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). However, Exondys51 has relied on phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMO) chemistry which poses challenges in the cost of production and compatibility with conventional oligonucleotide synthesis procedures. One approach to overcome this problem is to construct the AO with alternative nucleic acid chemistries using solid-phase oligonucleotide synthesis via standard phosphoramidite chemistry. 2′-Fluoro (2′-F) is a potent RNA analogue that possesses high RNA binding affinity and resistance to nuclease degradation with good safety profile, and an approved drug Macugen containing 2′-F-modified pyrimidines was approved for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In the present study, we investigated the scope of 2′-F nucleotides to construct mixmer and gapmer exon skipping AOs with either 2′-O-methyl (2′-OMe) or locked nucleic acid (LNA) nucleotides on a phosphorothioate (PS) backbone, and evaluated their efficacy in inducing exon-skipping in mdx mouse myotubes in vitro. Our results showed that all AOs containing 2′-F nucleotides induced efficient exon-23 skipping, with LNA/2′-F chimeras achieving better efficiency than the AOs without LNA modification. In addition, LNA/2′-F chimeric AOs demonstrated higher exonuclease stability and lower cytotoxicity than the 2′-OMe/2′-F chimeras. Overall, our findings certainly expand the scope of constructing 2′-F modified AOs in splice modulation by incorporating 2′-OMe and LNA modifications.