Chemical modifications of small interfering (si)RNAs are used to enhance their stability and potency, and to reduce possible off-target effects, including immunogenicity. We have earlier introduced highly effective antiviral siRNA swarms against herpes simplex virus (HSV), targeting 653 bp of the essential UL29 viral gene. Here, we report a method for enzymatic production and antiviral use of 2′-fluoro-modified siRNA swarms. Utilizing the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase from bacteriophage phi6, we produced 2′-F-siRNA swarms containing either all or a fraction of modified adenosine, cytidine or uridine residues in the antisense strand of the UL29 target. The siRNA containing modified pyrimidines demonstrated high resistance to RNase A and the antiviral potency of all the UL29-specific 2′-F-siRNA swarms was 100-fold in comparison with the unmodified counterpart, without additional cytotoxicity. Modest stimulation of innate immunity signaling, including induced expression of both type I and type III interferons, as well as interferon-stimulated gene 54, by 2′-F-cytidine and 2′-F-uridine modified siRNA swarms occurred at early time points after transfection while the 2′-F-adenosine-containing siRNA was similar to the unmodified antiviral siRNA swarm in this respect. The antiviral efficacy of the 2′-F-siRNA swarms and the elicited cellular innate responses did not correlate suggesting that innate immunity pathways do not significantly contribute to the observed enhanced antiviral activity of the modified siRNAs. The results support further applications of enzymatically produced siRNA molecules with incorporated adenosine nucleotides, carrying fluoro-modification on ribose C2′ position, for further antiviral studies in vitro and in vivo.
- 1182 Biokemi, cell- och molekylärbiologi