Delivery and stability of antisense oligonucleotide conjugates in vitro
The aim of this project was to study the delivery of ODNs to macrophages and to assess the stability of two ODN conjugates, in vitro. The first conjugate aimed to improve uptake of ODNs via mannose receptor mediated delivery, the second investigated the improved delivery of ODN conjugates via non-specific lipophilic interaction with the cell membrane. A mono-mannose phosphoramidite derivative was designed and synthesised and a mono-mannose ODN conjugate synthesised by standard phosphoramidite chemistry. Delivery of this conjugate was enhanced to RAW264.7 and J774 macrophage cell lines via a mechanism of receptor mediated endocytosis. The delivery of three lipophilic ODN conjugates, cholesterol (cholhex), 16-carbon alkyl chain (C16) and hexa-ethylene glycol (HEG) moieties and an unconjugated ODN were assessed in RAW264.7 macrophages. All three conjugates increased the lipophilicity of the ODN as assessed from partition coefficient data. Both the cholhex and unconjugated ODNs were found to have higher degrees of cellular association than the C16 and HEG conjugates. Cellular uptake studies implicated internalisation of these ODNs by an adsorptive endocytosis mechanism. Following endocytosis, ODNs must remain stable during their residence in endosomal/lysosomal compartments prior to exiting and exerting their biological action in either the cytosol or nucleus. Assessment of in vitro stability in a lysosomal extract revealed the cholhex conjugate and unconjugated ODNs to have a longer half-life than the C16 and HEG conjugated ODNs, highlighting the influence of conjugate moieties on lysosomal stability. The effects of base composition and length on stability in a lysosomal extract revealed the longest half-life for homo-cytidine ODNs and ODNs over 20 nucleotides in length. These studies suggest that the above conjugates can enhance cellular association and delivery of antisense ODNs to cultured macrophages. This may lead to their use in treating disorders such as HIV infection, which affects this cell type.