Inhibiting HIV-1 gene expression and replication with expressed long hairpin RNAs

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dc.contributor.author Saayman, Sheena Meg
dc.date.accessioned 2010-09-22T08:27:44Z
dc.date.available 2010-09-22T08:27:44Z
dc.date.issued 2010-09-22
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10539/8758
dc.description PhD, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand en_US
dc.description.abstract The vast potential of the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway as a new tool for the development of therapeutic modalities has been quickly realised since its discovery in 1998. RNAi effector mimics have been developed to successfully silence an array of disease-causing genetic elements. However, because of the rapidly mutating genome of viruses such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), inhibition of replication cannot be sustained with single RNAi effector mimics. Instead, a combinatorial approach is required, analogous to the cocktail of drugs necessary for successful highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Pioneering studies utilizing long hairpin RNAs (lhRNAs) showed that the long double-stranded RNA stem region acts as a Dicer substrate and is processed into multiple siRNA species. This intrinsic combinatorial property of lhRNAs was exploited in this thesis by attempting to incorporate three non-contiguous potent siRNA sequences within a single lhRNA stem expressed from an RNA Pol III promoter. Although significant knockdown of three independent HIV target sequences was possible, the limitations of this approach became apparent when it was observed that human Dicer does not function efficiently as a multiple turnover enzyme. The generation of siRNA products therefore occurred in a gradient, with higher levels of siRNA produced from the base of the hairpin stem and decreasing quantities generated towards the loop. Modifications to the configuration of integrated siRNA sequences within the stem region enabled augmented RNAi activity of siRNAs in the second position of the hairpin stem. This led to the notion that further manipulation of the structural design of the stem duplex may improve efficacy of up to two siRNAs. Dual-targeting anti-HIV lhRNAs encoding only two highly effective siRNAs targeted against non-contiguous sites within the tat, nef, LTR and int viral genes were therefore propagated. The spatial arrangement of two siRNA sequences was extensively characterised within dual-targeting lhRNAs by inserting up to three random base pairs at the junctions of siRNA encoding sequences and 5 bp preceding the terminal loop sequence. A universally optimal hairpin design was identified which contained a single mismatched base pair between two 19 bp + 2 nt siRNA sequences, as well as a terminal extension. Two powerful dual-targeting lhRNA species, lhRNA-tat-nef +1 and lhRNA-LTR-int +1, each capable of producing two potent anti-HIV siRNA products in equal quantities were selected for incorporation into a combinatorial RNAi system. These two effective dual-targeting lhRNAs were combined, adjacent to one another within a single RNA Pol III-expressed transcript to create a novel lhRNA-based combinatorial RNAi structure. This double lhRNA (dlhRNA) construct served as a precursor for four discrete highly functional RNAi effector sequences which were capable of simultaneously silencing four unique HIV target sites within the tat, nef, LTR and int genes. Furthermore, the ectopic expression of dlhRNAs did not elicit activation of the interferon response, nor did it cause saturation of the endogenous miRNA biogenesis pathway in vitro. In conclusion, the inherent combinatorial RNAi properties of long hairpin RNAs were evaluated and the detailed analysis is presented in this thesis. Structurally optimised dualtargeting lhRNAs subsequently formed the core components of a novel dlhRNA precursor which meets all the requirements for an effective combinatorial RNAi strategy and therefore holds great promise for mediating an effective and sustained gene therapy against HIV. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.subject HIV-1 en_US
dc.subject RNA en_US
dc.subject gene inhibitors en_US
dc.title Inhibiting HIV-1 gene expression and replication with expressed long hairpin RNAs en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US


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    Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of the Witwatersrand, 1972.

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