Bioinformatic and functional optimization of antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs) for therapeutic modulation of RNA splicing in muscle

Linda J Popplewell, Ian R Graham, Alberto Malerba, George Dickson
Methods in Molecular Biology 2011, 709: 153-78
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by mutations that disrupt the reading frame of the human DMD gene. Selective removal of exons flanking an out-of-frame DMD mutation can result in an in-frame mRNA transcript that may be translated into an internally deleted, Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD)-like, but functionally active dystrophin protein with therapeutic activity. Antisense oligonucleotides (AOs) can be designed to bind to complementary sequences in the targeted mRNA and modify pre-mRNA splicing to correct the reading frame of a mutated transcript so that gene expression is restored. AO-induced exon skipping producing functional truncated dystrophin exon has been demonstrated in animal models of DMD both in vitro and in vivo, and in DMD patient cells in vitro in culture, and in DMD muscle explants. More recently, AO-mediated exon skipping has been confirmed in DMD patients in Phase I clinical trials. However, it should be noted that personalized molecular medicine may be necessary, since the various reading frame-disrupting mutations are spread across the DMD gene. The different deletions that cause DMD would require skipping of different exons, which would require the optimization and clinical trial workup of many specific AOs. This chapter describes the methodologies available for the optimization of AOs, and in particular phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs), for the targeted skipping of specific exons on the DMD gene.

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