Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is a dominantly inherited, multisystemic disorder characterized clinically by delayed muscle relaxation and weakness. The disease is caused by a CTG repeat expansion in the 3' untranslated region (3' UTR) of the DMPK gene, which leads to the expression of a toxic gain-of-function mRNA. The expanded CUG repeat mRNA sequesters the MBNL1 splicing regulator in nuclear-retained foci structures, resulting in loss of protein function and disruption of alternative splicing homeostasis. In this study, we used CAG repeat antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), composed of locked nucleic acid (LNA)- and 2'-O-methyl (2'OMe)-modified bases in a chimeric design, to alleviate CUGexpanded-mediated toxicity. Chimeric 14-18mer LNA/2'OMe oligonucleotides, exhibiting an LNA incorporation of ∼33%, significantly ameliorated the misregulated alternative splicing of Mbnl1-dependent exons in primary DM1 mouse myoblasts and tibialis anterior muscles of DM1 mice. Subcutaneous delivery of 14mer and 18mer LNA/2'OMe chimeras in DM1 mice resulted in high levels of accumulation in all tested skeletal muscles, as well as in the diaphragm and heart tissue. Despite the efficient delivery, chimeric LNA/2'OMe oligonucleotides were not able, even at a high-dosage regimen (400 mg/kg/week), to correct the misregulated splicing of Serca1 exon 22 in skeletal muscles. Nevertheless, oligonucleotide doses were well-tolerated as determined by histological and plasma biochemistry analyses. Our results provide proof of concept that inhibition of MBNL1 sequestration by systemic delivery of a steric-blocking ASO is extremely challenging, considering the large number of target sites that need to be occupied per RNA molecule. Although not suitable for DM1 therapy, chimeric LNA/2'OMe oligonucleotides could prove to be highly beneficial for other diseases, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, that require inhibition of a single target site per RNA molecule.
- antisense oligonucleotide
- in vivo