We have previously engineered new RNase P-based ribozyme variants with improved in vitro catalytic activity. In this study, we employed a novel engineered variant to target a shared mRNA region of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) immediate early proteins 1 (IE1) and 2 (IE2), which are essential for the expression of viral early and late genes as well as viral growth. Ribozyme F-R228-IE represents a novel variant that possesses three unique base substitution point mutations at the catalytic domain of RNase P catalytic RNA. Compared to F-M1-IE that is the ribozyme derived from the wild type RNase P catalytic RNA sequence, the functional variant F-R228-IE cleaved the target mRNA sequence in vitro at least 100 times more efficiently. In cultured cells, expression of F-R228-IE resulted in IE1/IE2 expression reduction by 98±99% and in HCMV production reduction by 50,000 folds. In contrast, expression of F-M1-IE resulted in IE1/IE2 expression reduction by less than 80% and in viral production reduction by 200 folds. Studies of the ribozyme-mediated antiviral effects in cultured cells suggest that overall viral early and late gene expression and viral growth were inhibited due to the ribozyme-mediated reduction of HCMV IE1 and IE2 expression. Our results provide direct evidence that engineered RNase P ribozymes, such as FR228-IE, can serve as a novel class of inhibitors for the treatment and prevention of HCMV infection. Moreover, these results suggest that F-R228-IE, with novel and unique mutations at the catalytic domain to enhance ribozyme activity, can be a candidate for the construction of effective agents for anti-HCMV therapy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)