Scripps Florida scientists create new approach to destroy disease-associated RNAs in cells

December 20, 2012

JUPITER, FL, December 20, 2012 - Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have developed a new approach to alter the function of RNA in living cells by designing molecules that recognize and disable RNA targets. As a proof of principle, in the new study the team designed a molecule that disabled the RNA causing myotonic dystrophy.

The study, published online ahead of print on December 20, 2012 by the journal Angewandte Chemie, reports the creation of small molecules that recognize disease-associated RNAs, targeting them for destruction. Since small molecules are cell-permeable, the approach could have benefits over traditional methods of targeting RNAs for degradation, such as antisense or RNA interference (RNAi).

"We're excited about these results," said Matthew Disney, an associate professor at TSRI who pioneered the research. "This approach may allow for the inactivation of many cellular RNAs by small molecules and potentially lead the way to a whole range of novel therapeutics."

It's well known that gene expression can be controlled by triggering the degradation of messenger RNA--the blueprint for the production of proteins. This is accomplished through the recruitment of compounds that cleave or split the molecule. While several compounds can induce RNA cleavage in vitro, this has not been accomplished efficiently in living cells--until now.

In the new study, Disney and Research Associate Lirui Guan attached a rationally designed small molecule that targets the RNA that causes myotonic dystrophy type 1 with a molecule that produces hydroxyl radicals. Upon the small molecule's recognition of the target, a hydroxyl radical was released that cleaved the disease-associated RNA, alleviating the disease-associated defects. Disney noted that, despite the compound's producing a highly reactive species, the compounds are non-toxic at relatively effective doses.

The team accomplished this feat through what Disney calls a bottom-up approach to targeting RNA.

"We first identified the preferred RNA structural elements or motifs that bind to small molecules," he said. "Then we looked at these elements in RNAs that cause disease and designed a binding molecule with increased affinity and specificity for those elements."

Myotonic dystrophy type 1 involves a type of RNA defect known as a "triplet repeat," a series of three nucleotides repeated more times than normal in an individual's genetic code, resulting in a number of protein splicing abnormalities. Symptoms of this variable disease can include wasting of the muscles and other muscle problems, cataracts, heart defects and hormone changes.

The applications for this new approach could include cancer treatment in conjunction with other therapies, Disney said. The approach could also be used to create chemical probes of RNA function or to develop tools to probe RNA structure--provided, of course, that the RNA-binding preferences of the small molecules involved were well defined.
-end-
The study, "Small Molecule-Mediated Cleavage of RNA in Living Cells," was supported by the National Institutes of Health (Grant number: R01-GM079235) and TSRI. For more information on the study, see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/anie.201206888/abstract.

Scripps Research Institute

Related RNA Articles from Brightsurf:

A new RNA catalyst from the lab
On the track of evolution: a catalytically active RNA molecule that specifically attaches methyl groups to other RNAs - a research group from the University of Würzburg reports on this new discovery in Nature.

Small RNA as a central player in infections
The most important pathogenicity factors of the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori are centrally regulated by a small RNA molecule, NikS.

RNA as a future cure for hereditary diseases
ETH Zurich scientists have developed an RNA molecule that can be used in bone marrow cells to correct genetic errors that affect protein production.

Bringing RNA into genomics
By studying RNA-binding proteins, a research consortium known as ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) has identified genomic sites that appear to code for RNA molecules that influence gene expression.

RNA key in helping stem cells know what to become
If every cell has the same genetic blueprint, why does an eye cell look and act so differently than a brain cell or skin cell?

RNA structures by the thousands
Researchers from Bochum and Münster have developed a new method to determine the structures of all RNA molecules in a bacterial cell at once.

New kind of CRISPR technology to target RNA, including RNA viruses like coronavirus
Researchers in the lab of Neville Sanjana, PhD, at the New York Genome Center and New York University have developed a new kind of CRISPR screen technology to target RNA.

Discovery of entirely new class of RNA caps in bacteria
The group of Dr. Hana Cahová of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS, in collaboration with scientists from the Institute of Microbiology of the CAS, has discovered an entirely new class of dinucleoside polyphosphate 5'RNA caps in bacteria and described the function of alarmones and their mechanism of function.

New RNA mapping technique shows how RNA interacts with chromatin in the genome
A group led by scientists from the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences (IMS) in Japan have developed a new method, RADICL-seq, which allows scientists to better understand how RNA interacts with the genome through chromatin--the structure in which the genome is organized.

Characterising RNA alterations in cancer
The largest and most comprehensive catalogue of cancer-specific RNA alterations reveals new insights into the cancer genome.

Read More: RNA News and RNA Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.