Evaluation of DNA enzymes targeted against the RNA component of human telomerase
In this study, two DNA enzymes were designed to target the template region of human telomerase RNA (hTR), utilising the 10-23 and 8-17 catalytic motifs elucidated by Santoro and Joyce (1997). Telomerase is an RNA-dependent DNA polymerase, which stabilises telomere lengths by adding hexameric repeats (TTAGGG in humans) to chromosome termini, thus preventing the telomere shortening that usually occurs during mitotic cell division. Telomerase activity, whilst absent in normal somatic tissues, is present in almost 90% of all tumours. Thus, there is speculation that telomerase may be the much sought universal target for therapeutic intervention in cancer. In vitro cleavage assays showed both DNA enzymes to be catalytically competent. Unmodified phosphodiester (PO) backbone DNA enzymes were rapidly degraded in the presence of serum, with a half-life of 10 minutes. The common approach of introducing phosphorothioate (PS) linkages was used in an effort to overcome this instability. As a result of concurrent activity and stability studies on the DNA enzymes with various numbers of PS linkages, the DNA enzymes with a PO core and PS arms were chosen for use in further cell work. The cleavage activity of both was shown to be specific and affected by temperature, pH, MgC12 concentration and enzyme concentration. Both DNA enzyme motifs reduced telomerase activity in cell lysates, as assessed by the telomerase repeat amplification protocol (TRAP) with an IC50 of 100nM. DNA enzymes being polyanionic molecules do not readily cross biological barriers. Cellular association of naked DNA enzyme was inefficient at less than 2%. Cellular delivery of the DNA enzymes was effectively improved using commercial cationic lipid formulations. However, the lipid-mediated delivery of DNA enzymes to U87-MG cells over a 4-hour period did not significantly inhibit cell proliferation compared to controls. This is possibly due to an expected lag period between the inhibition of telomere maintenance and cell death. Therefore, biodegradable polymer microspheres were investigated as a potential delivery option for prolonged and sustained delivery.