Antisense drug discovery: Can cell-free screens speed the process?

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Many conditions must be satisfied for an antisense drug to function. It must colocalize with its target RNA at a sufficient concentration for a bimolecular reaction to occur, and it must have a structure that favors association with its target. In addition, if the antisense compound is to form Watson-Crick bonds with the target RNA, it must be complementary to sites that are amenable to binding. Unfortunately, the peculiarities that cause certain sites to be especially vulnerable to antisense compounds are undefined, as discussed previously. Because vulnerable target sites have no common properties allowing them to be identified by sequence analysis, most target sites and their antisense counterparts are found through a trial and error process in which oligomers - each complementary to a different site in the target RNA - are tested individually to find the one with the greatest specificity and lowest inhibitory concentration (IC50). However, testing antisense molecules one at a time can be a taxing process, and there is great interest in developing cell-free screening methods that can reduce the number of compounds that must be tested in cells and in whole animals. These cell-free screens are designed to generate short lists of target sites that include the ideal site - the site most vulnerable to antisense ablation in vivo. They are based on the unproven assumption that ideal sites have distinctive properties, such as susceptibility to RNase H-mediated cleavage, that allow them to be detected in cell-free assays. This is a review of data emerging from studies using RNase H-based screens and a summary of the challenges confronting these and any similar methods that use naked RNAs as surrogates for intracellular RNAs. It is not yet clear if cell-free screening methods will be effective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-254
Number of pages6
JournalAntisense and Nucleic Acid Drug Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


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