PloS one

Novel AgoshRNA molecules for silencing of the CCR5 co-receptor for HIV-1 infection.

PMID 28542329


Allogeneic transplantation of blood stem cells from a CCR5-Δ32 homozygous donor to an HIV-infected individual, the "Berlin patient", led to a cure. Since then there has been a search for approaches that mimic this intervention in a gene therapy setting. RNA interference (RNAi) has evolved as a powerful tool to regulate gene expression in a sequence-specific manner and can be used to inactivate the CCR5 mRNA. Short hairpin RNA (shRNA) molecules can impair CCR5 expression, but these molecules may cause unintended side effects and they will not be processed in cells that lack Dicer, such as monocytes. Dicer-independent RNAi pathways have opened opportunities for new AgoshRNA designs that rely exclusively on Ago2 for maturation. Furthermore, AgoshRNA processing yields a single active guide RNA, thus reducing off-target effects. In this study, we tested different AgoshRNA designs against CCR5. We selected AgoshRNAs that potently downregulated CCR5 expression on human T cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and that had no apparent adverse effect on T cell development as assessed in a competitive cell growth assay. CCR5 knockdown significantly protected T cells from CCR5 tropic HIV-1 infection.