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Novel approaches for gene-specific interference via manipulating actions of microRNAs: examination on the pacemaker channel genes HCN2 and HCN4.

Jiening Xiao, Baofeng Yang, Huixian Lin, Yanjie Lu, Xiaobin Luo, Zhiguo Wang

J. Cell. Physiol., 2007 Aug , 212, 285-92

Recent evidence has suggested microRNAs as viable therapeutic targets for a wide range of human disease. However, lack of gene-specificity of microRNA actions may hinder this application. Here we developed two new approaches, the gene-specific microRNA mimic and microRNA-masking antisense approaches, to explore the possibility of using microRNA's principle of actions in a gene-specific manner. We examined the value of these strategies as rational approaches to develop heart rate-reducing agents and "biological pacemakers" by manipulating the expression of the cardiac pacemaker channel genes HCN2 and HCN4. We showed that the gene-specific microRNA mimics, 22-nt RNAs designed to target the 3'untranslated regions (3'UTRs) of HCN2 and HCN4, respectively, were efficient in abrogating expression and function of HCN2 and HCN4. The gene-specific microRNA mimics repressed protein levels, accompanied by depressed f-channel conductance and the associated rhythmic activity, without affecting mRNA levels of HCN2 and HCN4. Meanwhile, we also designed the microRNA-masking antisense based on the miR-1 and miR-133 target sites in the 3'UTRs of HCN2 and HCN4 and found that these antisense oligodeoxynucleotides markedly enhanced HCN2/HCN4 expression and function, as reflected by increased protein levels of HCN2/HCN4 and If conductance, by removing the repression of HCN2/HCN4 expression induced by endogenous miR-1/miR-133. The experimental examination of these techniques and the resultant findings not only indicate feasibility of interfering miRNA action in a gene-specific fashion but also may provide a new research tool for studying function of miRNAs. The new approaches also have the potential of becoming alternative gene therapy strategies.