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Inhibition of Herpes Simplex Virus Replication Using Small Interfering RNA that Target ICP4 Gene of Herpes Simplex Type 2

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INHIBITION OF HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS REPLICATION USING SMALL INTERFERING RNA THAT TARGET ICP4 GENE OF HERPES SIMPLEX TYPE 2 By SURESHA CHANDANI RAJAGURU A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF SCIENCE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2004

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Copyright 2004 by Suresha Chandani Rajaguru

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This thesis is dedicated to my parents and to my husband

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to express my deepest thanks to my mentor Dr. Gregory Schultz for his support, guidance and patience in teaching. My sincere thanks go to the members of my committee; Dr. Alfred Lewin, Dr. David Bloom and Dr. Sonal Tuli, for their support and encouragement in the completion of the masters program. Gratitude is owed to Dr. Adrian Timmers for his support in the purchase of oligonucleotides. I thank the research group of Dr. Bloom for their help from the beginning of this project to the end. Deepest thanks go to my friends in the Institute for Wound Healing; Jia Liu, Timothy Blalock, Angel Sampson, Heejung Yang, John Azeke, Siva Radhakrishnan, and to Dr. Chigini and his group for their encouragement and support. I thank my husband, Nishantha Bandara, who has given me support and encouragement, particularly those times when I needed it most. Finally I would like to express my gratitude to my parents; late Mr. Somapala Rajaguru and Mrs. W. Nandawathie, for their unconditional love and support that made me who I am today. iv

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TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv LIST OF TABLES............................................................................................................vii LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................viii ABSTRACT.......................................................................................................................ix CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 2 LITERATURE REVIEW.............................................................................................3 Herpes Simplex Virus and Latency..............................................................................3 Herpes Simplex Virus Infection, Structure and Virus Replication.......................3 Herpes Simplex Latency........................................................................................7 Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Exerts Immunity and Affects Cellular Protein Synthesis................................................................................................8 Treatment of Herpes Simplex Virus......................................................................9 Vaccine................................................................................................................10 Herpes Simplex Virus and Gene Therapy...........................................................13 Virus and RNA Interference.......................................................................................14 RNA Interference................................................................................................14 Off-Target Effect of siRNA.................................................................................16 3 MATERIALS AND METHODS...............................................................................18 Cell Culture.................................................................................................................18 Virus Stock.................................................................................................................19 Virus Assay.................................................................................................................20 Design of siRNA.........................................................................................................20 Deprotection of siRNA...............................................................................................22 Annealing of siRNA...................................................................................................22 Labeling of siRNA......................................................................................................22 Transfection of siRNA................................................................................................23 RNA Extraction..........................................................................................................23 Cell Proliferation Assay..............................................................................................24 v

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4 RESULTS...................................................................................................................26 Assessment of Optimal siRNA Concentration for Transfection................................26 Evaluation of Effect of Five siRNA on HSV-2 Replication in Rabbit Skin Cells.....26 Identification of the Best Cell Culture Model to Assess the Effect of siRNA on Reduction of Virus Replication.............................................................................28 Effect of siRNA on Plaque Formation........................................................................28 Evaluation of Effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 Replication with Different Multiplicities of Infection and Harvested at Different Time Points......................28 Comparison of Growth of HSV 2 Virus Between Mock Transfected Group, Scramble siRNA Transfected Group and siRNA 19 Transfected Group..............30 Cell Proliferation Assay..............................................................................................30 5 DISCUSSION.............................................................................................................42 The Importance of New Therapeutic Measures for HSV...........................................42 Feasibility of RNA Interference as a Therapeutic Measure in HSV Infection...........43 How is This Study Designed to Overcome the Prevailing Drawbacks in Current Treatment Methods?..............................................................................................44 6 CONCLUSION...........................................................................................................49 REFERENCE LIST...........................................................................................................51 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................55 vi

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LIST OF TABLES Table page 1 Percent reduction and the P values between siRNAs and scramble........................34 2 Percentage reduction and P values of results shown in figure 4..............................34 3 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 5........................35 4 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 6........................36 5 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 7........................36 6 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 8........................37 7 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 9........................38 8 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 10.....................38 9 Percentage reductions and P values of the results shown in figure 11A..................39 10 P Values of the data shown in figures 12A, 12B and 12C.......................................41 vii

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LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 Designing siRNA molecules....................................................................................21 2 Optimizing transfection conditions..........................................................................33 3 The effect of five siRNA molecules on HSV 2 replication at MOI of 0.001 in rabbit skin cells at 12 hours post-infection...............................................................33 4 Effect of siRNA #1 on HSV-2 replication grown in HeLa cells..............................34 5 Effect of siRNA on plaque formation of HSV-2......................................................35 6 Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication at high multiplicity of infection (MOI of 1) infected cells were harvested at 13 hours post-infection.......................35 7 Effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 replication with infection of MOI of 0.01 at 36 hours post-infection..................................................................................................36 8 Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication with MOI of 0.01 at 72 hours post-infection............................................................................................................37 9 Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication with MOI of 0.01 at 96 hours post-infection............................................................................................................37 10 Effect of siRNA on HSV-1 replication in rabbit skin cells......................................38 11 Virus replication assessments...................................................................................39 12 Cell proliferation assays at different time points post-transfection..........................40 viii

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Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science INHIBITION OF HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS REPLICATION USING SMALL INTERFERING RNA THAT TARGET ICP4 GENE OF HERPES SIMPLEX TYPE 2 By Suresha Chandani Rajaguru December 2004 Chair: Gregory S. Schultz Major Department: Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Herpes simplex type 1(HSV 1) is the primary causative agent for ocular herpes and Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV 2) is the primary agent for genital herpes. Herpes simplex infections can be life-threatening in immunocompromised people and neonates. Herpes is a neurotropic virus that establishes latency causing a lifelong infection in sensory neuronal ganglia that supply the primary site of infection. Prophylactic oral antiviral therapy reduces recurrences of herpes simplex keratitis (HSK) by only 40% and has no sustained benefit following its discontinuation. 15 There are three kinetic groups of proteins that play a role in herpes simplex virus replication: immediate early, early, and late. Immediate early genes activate the host cell transcriptional machinery. There are five immediate early genes expressed in the earliest stages of the HSV infection cycle: 4 (ICP4), 0 (ICP0), 27 (ICP27/UL50), 22 (ICP22/ UL54), and 47 (ICP47/ US12). Small interfering RNAs (siRNA) are 21-23 nucleotide RNA molecules that cleave target mRNA sequences. In this study, we designed five siRNA molecules that target the ix

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mRNA of the immediate early gene, ICP4. Two out of five siRNAs target both HSV 1 and HSV 2. All five siRNA molecules reduce HSV 2 (HG52) replication in rabbit skin cells, but there was no significant reduction shown in HSV 1 replication. The most effective siRNA molecule, siRNA19, was selected for the further studies that were carried out on the HSV 2 replication in different time points and in different multiplicities of infection. Treatment of RS cells with siRNA19 at 100 nM significantly reduced HSV 2 viral replication up to 92% at 12, 24 and 36, and 48 hours at low multiplicity of infection (MOI) of 0.0001, 0.001, and at a high MOI of 3 compared to transfection with an irrelevant siRNA. The siRNA molecules caused minor reduction in serum-stimulated proliferation of target cells, suggesting low off target effects. These results suggest that siRNA treatment targeting ICP4 may be an effective new therapy for treatment of HSV 2 genital herpes infection. x

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION This thesis evaluates small interfering RNA (siRNA) as a possible therapeutic strategy in herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections. For this study, we mainly focused on designing and testing siRNA molecules that target the ICP4 gene of HSV 2. Furthermore, this study attempted to generate three siRNA molecules that would target the ICP4 gene of both HSV 1 and HSV 2. Herpes simplex is a neurotropic virus that establishes latency causing a lifelong infection in sensory neuronal ganglia that supply the primary site of infection. HSV 1 is the primary causative agent of labial and ocular herpes, and HSV 2 is the primary causative agent of genital herpes. However, small percentages of genital herpes and facial herpes infections have been reported to be caused by HSV 1 and HSV 2 respectively. More than 50 million adults in the USA are known to harbor genital herpes which reflects an increased incidence of HSV infections in the country overall. 16 Herpes infection in neonates and in immunocompromised people could be life-threatening. Over the past forty years several successful antiviral agents have been used to treat herpes infections. Unfortunately, neither of these agents was successful as a cure for the disease. Lifelong antiviral treatment is indicated to have reduced the frequency and the duration of recurrences in immunocompromised people. However, it was reported that there has been no sustained effect after the discontinuation of prophylactic therapy. Over the next twenty-five years, it is estimated that the cumulative cost of incident HSV 2 infection in the United States will be forty-three billion dollars. 16 The unavailability of a cure for 1

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2 herpes infections, the cost of treatments, and the emergence of resistance to existing antiviral therapies imply the importance of the development of a more effective treatment method for herpes infections. Small interfering RNAs are double-stranded 21 nucleotide RNA molecules that are known to inhibit specific gene expressions at the post-transcriptional level. Previous studies have shown that siRNAs are effective in the inhibition of certain viruses such as HIV 6,7,8,30,33 Hepatitis C 38 Hepatitis B 23 and Human papilloma virus 24 The exogenous delivery of siRNA offers a possibility of immediate delivery of therapeutic siRNAs for a short duration in acute infections, while short hairpin siRNA molecules expressed in plasmids or virus vectors exert a sustained effect that could be used in chronic infections. The herpes simplex virus expresses three kinetic groups of proteins during virus replication, named immediate early, early and late proteins. ICP4 (4) is an essential immediate early gene that is expressed at its peak at-4 hours post-infection. We hypothesized that the specific inhibition of ICP4 mRNA would also inhibit the HSV replication. Our overall goal was to design and test siRNA molecules that target the ICP4 gene of HSV 2. Our first specific aim was to identify the homologous sequences between ICP4 genes of HSV 1 and HSV2. It was expected that a site of a gene that shares a homology between two types of viruses has a better chance to be conserved in the longrun. Furthermore, such an approach would offer the possibility to design siRNA molecules that target both HSV 1 and HSV 2 infections at the same time. Our second specific aim was to design and test siRNA molecules in cell culture models. Our third specific aim was to evaluate the specificity of siRNA molecules on ICP4 gene silencing and also to evaluate the possibility of off-target effects on cell culture.

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CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Herpes Simplex Virus and Latency Herpes Simplex Virus Infection, Structure and Virus Replication Herpes viruses are enveloped, icosahedral, double-stranded viruses that belong to the herpesviridae family. All herpes viruses consist of an icosahedral nucleocapsid surrounded by tegument, which in turn is surrounded by an outer lipid membrane. 1 The tegument consists of proteins of which at least two proteins are believed to be involved in the transactivation of gene expression and one of the proteins shuts off host macromolecular synthesis. Eight glycoproteins in the virus envelope stimulate humoral immune response. 1 Herpes viruses are categorized into three groups named alphaherpesvirus, betaherpesvirus and gammaherpesvirus. There are eight human herpes viruses that have been identified to cause diseases in humans: herpes simplex type 1 (HSV 1), herpes simplex type 2 (HSV 2), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), human herpes virus type 6 (HHV 6), human herpes virus type 7 (HHV 7), and human herpes virus type 8 (HHV 8). Among them, HSV 1 and HSV 2 are known to cause facial and genital herpes infections. HSV 1 is the primary causative agent of facial herpes and HSV 2 is the primary causative agent of genital herpes. However, HSV 2 causes a small percentage of facial herpes and HSV 1 causes a small percentage of genital herpes. 46 3

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4 Herpes simplex type 1 and type 2 share almost all of the transcriptional regulations. Most of the features regarding HSV 1 replication have been identified. Both types are known to be able to replicate in a variety of cultured mammalian cells, animals and tissues. Thus in-vitro and in-vivo studies of these viruses have an advantage over other herpes viruses as they adapt well to a variety of animal models, and cell and tissue culture models. The herpes virus has a complex genome that consists of a linear duplex molecule with two segments of unique sequences. These unique sequences, which are bounded by pairs of inverted repeats, are of 67 and 8.9 kb in length called unique long (U L ) and unique short (U S ) regions respectively. 1 Of the documented 80 viral proteins encoded in the HSV genome, 30 gene products are known to be responsible for the structural protein production of the virion. 46 Other than transcription of transcriptional and structural proteins, which are required for viral replication, the virus encodes for two important host modifying proteins, the transinducing factor (-TIF/VP16/V MW 65 / U L 48/ virion stimulatory protein) and virion host shutoff protein (U L 41). 46 The infection and virus replication begin by fusion of the virion envelop with the cell plasma membrane, and it takes approximately 18 hours to complete the lytic cycle. During this cycle, the viral DNA and one or more of the tegument proteins that are transported into the cell enter the nucleus. It is known that the cellular RNA polymerase II transcribes the virus DNA. The viral mRNA is then subjected to post-transcriptional modifications, such as cleavage, phosphorylation, sulfation, Oand N linked glycosylation, and myristilation. 1 A cascade of proteins synthesized during HSV

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5 replication are grouped into three major kinetic classes; immediate early (IE or ), early (E or ) and late (L or ). The five immediate early genes named, 4 (ICP4), 0 (ICP0), 27 (ICP27/U L 50), 22 (ICP22/ U L 54) and 47 (ICP47/ U S 12), are expressed and peak at 2-4 hours postinfection. Since 4 and 27 map in the inverted repeat, they are diploid in the herpes genome. ICP4 has a high molecular mass of 170-175 kDA, which is known to be due to post-translational modification. ICP4 is known to be essential in viral replication, as it is needed for the auto regulation, and for the activation and transcription of the early and late genes. The active form of ICP4 protein is a homodimer and it binds to a specific sequence of 4 and 0 genes. (The binding sites in other genes are not yet certain.) The 0 protein is a diploid protein that is predicted to be approximately of 78 kDa, and known to have a synergistic interaction with 4 proteins. Although it is known that 0 is not required for the lytic infection of the cell culture, in low multiplicity, 0 is required for the significant expression of early and late kinetic proteins. The 27 protein is shown to be essential in viral growth as it acts as a repressor of and some genes and is also required for the expression of genes. It has been shown that 27 plays a role in the stabilization and export of improperly processed mRNA. There is minimal knowledge about the functions of 22 and 47. It is suggested that 22 plays a role in late gene expression while 47 has a supplementary effect. The 4 and 27 proteins have been shown to be targets for cytotoxic T lymphocytes; however, the role of 22 and 47 is not yet known. 1

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6 The seven of early () genes, DNA polymerase (U L 30), DNA binding protein (U L 42 and U L 29/ ICP8), ORI binding protein (U L 9), and the helicase /primase complex (U L 5, U L 8 and UL52) have been shown to be essential in virus replication, while the rest of the () gene products play only a partial role. 1 In addition to its DNA polymerase activity, the U L 30 acts as a DNA-dependent polynucleotide synthetase, 3-5 exonuclease and RNase H. U L 42 contributes to the makeup of the DNA polymerase holoenzyme in a one-to-one complex. The complex formed by the three gene products of UL5, U L 8, and UL52 functions as a helicase and primase. The U L 29 or ICP4 encodes a major DNA binding protein that is involved in DNA replication and gene regulation. The essential () genes are mapped in the U S region and the rest are mapped in the U L region. 1 The late or proteins are involved in the structure of the viral particle and are grouped into the two classes 1 and 2, in which the 1 gene encodes for the capsid protein named VP5 while the 2 gene encodes for the glycoprotein gC. The proteins consist of nucleocapsid proteins named VP5, VP19C, VP21, VP22, VP23, and VP24, and glycoproteins named gB, gC, gD, gE, gH, gI, and gJ. Among the glycoproteins, only gB, gD, and gH are known to be essential for virus multiplication in cell culture. Viral glycoproteins, especially gB or gC, are shown to play an essential role in the initiating event of the virus adsorption as it interacts with the heparin sulfate proteoglycans on the surface of the cell. The glycoproteins gB and gD are known to be involved in cell fusion and gH also is assumed to play a role in this virus entry process. The promoter sequences of two 2 genes carry an 4 binding site. Thus, it is believed that 4 (ICP4) plays a role in gene expression. In addition, it has been shown that some other immediate early proteins such as 0, 22, and 27 and an early protein ICP8 play a regulatory role in

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7 herpes virus genes. But 47 has not shown any effect on gene regulation. Since these are structural proteins, they may act as targets for the immune response. The or gene transcriptional control can be considered a nested set situation since all three genes require the TATA box and both the gene and the gene require an additional distal signal and only the gene requires an upstream TAATGART motif. 1 Herpes Simplex Latency Herpes simplex virus is an alpha virus, which is able to establish latency in the sensory ganglions of the nerves that innervate the primary infected site. The latency associated transcriptional unit (LAT) remains active during latency. It has been shown that infected mouse ganglia cells can either express LAT or HSV antigen, but not both. It was suggested that LAT could be down-regulating an acute transcription. 23 The Latency associated transcript is the only region of the herpes genome that is active during the latency of the virus. The LAT gives two stable transcripts of 2.3 and 1.8 kb. Since the last 750 bases of LAT are known to be complementary to the 3 terminus of ICP0 mRNA, it has been hypothesized that LAT may affect viral replication by limiting the expression of immediate early gene products. Furthermore, the 5 terminus of LAT was shown to facilitate HSV reactivation. It has been hypothesized that the LAT has a RNA specific ribozyme effect. This hypothesis was built up upon the facts that the both LAT transcript and ribozyme are restricted in the nucleus and also both do not encode any proteins. It was also found that the LAT shares other features with the ribozyme; for example, they both have a unique stable structure and both presence in lariat and nonlinear confirmation. Further, it was hypothesized that the LAT ribozyme inhibits the required synthesis factor for viral reactivation. 29 A study done in 1997 by Devi-Rao et al. on rabbit

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8 eyes showed that a productive genome replication could occur in the corneas of reactivating rabbits with LAT+ or LAT viral infections. But a greater number of viruses were observed with LAT+ infection compared to the LAT infection. 10 Further, it was identified that two cAMP response elements in latency associated transcripts were identified at to and the other at to and those elements were proposed to trigger reactivation via a second messenger pathway involving cAMP. It was suggested that this type of mechanism may be capable of translating stress signals from the cell to the latent viral genome. 4 Although the cell culture is a useful system for studying the virus, it does not simulate the natural encounter of the virus, where the virus encounters different cell types. Thus some studies have developed a reporter virus to examine the cell tropism of Herpes simplex virus LAT expression in the sensory neurons. This system has enabled researchers to understand the mechanism of the establishment of the latent infection and the mechanism of reactivation. In such cases researches have observed a lower number of cells express LAT compared to the total number of infected cells. 3 Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Exerts Immunity and Affects Cellular Protein Synthesis The herpes simplex virus exerts both cell mediated and specific humoral immunities in the host. The damage such as keratitis is caused more by the cell mediated immune damage than by the infection itself. 13 Like other viruses, the herpes simplex virus infection affects cellular protein synthesis. It was shown a marked general decrease in transcript abundance during the virus infection with a few exceptions such as a limited number of stress response genes and cellular transcriptional regulatory genes. Increased expression of ISG 54K E2, JUNC, N-SHC, STAT5, and TAP1 transcripts can be given as

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9 an example of a major effect on a limited number of stress response and regulatory genes. It was observed that the U L 54 (27) protein plays a major role in the shutoff of the cellular proteins and is directly involved in a decline of host mRNA abundance. The US12 protein reduces the level of MHC (major histocompatibility complex) and also contributes to its primary function in the MHC class I pathway. 44 Further, it was known that the herpes simplex virus affects cellular transcription during its latency. Latency induced transcript and host functions are known to contribute to this repression. Some studies were carried out to determine the contributory factors that maintain HSV latency. 27 It was suggested that a local immune response might contribute to the maintenance of latent infection because of the presence of infiltrating immune cells and cytokines in the latently-infected ganglia. There is evidence suggesting that neuronal functions help maintain latency. Several genes in this category code for the neurotransmitter receptors, such as Gprc1g, Chrm1, and Gabbr, voltage-gated ion channels, such as Kcnc1 and Kcnab. There are proteins known to be involved in neurite extension, axonal elongation, and cell matrix interactions such as Prss 12, UIk1, COl15a1, Adam23, and n-chimerin, and proteins involved in catabolic functions, such as Man2b1, Ctsd, Usp20, Ube1x, and Acox2. All of these findings show that both viral and host cell functions contribute to the maintenance of latency. 27 Treatment of Herpes Simplex Virus There are several successful antiviral agents that have been developed over the past forty years. A number of factors such as the immune state of the individual, the site of infection, and the primary or secondary nature of the infection are considered when selecting treatment for herpes simplex virus infections. There are several diagnostic

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10 methods to identify the HSV infection, but the isolation of herpes simplex virus in tissue culture is the most common and reliable. The antiviral agents, Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, or Famciclovir, are usually given to healthy individuals for 7-10 days during the primary infection. In current practice, the individuals who have frequent recurrences are treated with daily suppressive therapy. Other antiviral agents, including Trifluridine, Vidarabine, Foscarnet, Cidofovir and Docosanol are also used in herpes simplex virus treatment. Resiquimod is a topical immune modifier that is currently undergoing clinical trials and is known as an emerging therapy to delay recurrences. 36 Clinical studies have revealed an emergence of drug resistance in approximately 0.3% of immunocompetent hosts and 4 to 7% in immunocompromised patients with the use of Acyclovir, penciclovir and their pro-drugs for two decades. Furthermore, it was observed that the prevalence of Acyclovir-resistant HSV is higher in severely immunocompromised patients than in immunocompetent patients. 2,13,43 It was reported that Acyclovir resistance occurs mainly due to mutations in thymidine kinase mutations and less frequently due to mutations in viral DNA polymerase. 9,25,26,34 It was identified that these mutations resulted in decreased or absent HSV thymidine kinase production, altered the affinity of the thymidine kinase for acyclovir-triphosphate, or altered the affinity of the HSV DNA polymerase for acyclovir-triphosphate. 9,37 Vaccine Potential goals for HSV vaccination are prevention or decrease in the severity of the disease, protection of the sensory ganglia from latent infection, and prevention of recurrences in latently-infected individuals. 9 Both cell mediated and humoral immune systems are known to act as protective immunities against HSV. It has been shown that immunization with DNA can induce

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11 both humoral and cell mediated immunity whereas immunization with purified protein induces only a CD4 + response but not CD8 + or innate response. 32 Reinfection by HSV 2 in the genital tract is uncommon and this was suggested to be due to the cell mediated immunity by the primary infection. Furthermore, it was shown that antigen specific memory T cells in the genital tract provide a high level of protective immunity in the absence of a humoral immunity. The effectiveness of antibodies in protecting against neuronal spread is well-proven in animal studies. As for the prevention or the control of latency in cases of the herpes simplex virus, there have been several studies conducted to develop different vaccines, such as plasma DNA vaccines, vaccines with HSV glycoprotein subunits, replication deficient subunits vaccines, and recombinant virus vector vaccines. 32 Herpes simplex virus type one is known to consist of an envelope that carries seven known antigenically distinct glycoproteins that are named gB, gC, gD, gE, gG, gI, gH, gJ, gK, gL, and gM. These glycoproteins are known to be inducers and targets for the humoral and cell mediated response of the host. 35 Herpes simplex virus glycoproteins are known to be the most favorable targets for a vaccine as they are highly immunogenic and induce neutralizing antibodies. Among them, glycoprotein B (gB) and/or glycoprotein D (gD) are preferred not only because they induce neutralizing antibodies, but also because they are the most abundant herpes simplex virus glycoproteins. Previously, it was suggested that the subunit vaccine using a mixture of recombinant glycoproteins is more efficient than a vaccine containing single recombinant alone. 36 The DNA vaccines are typically composed of bacterially-derived plasmid DNA carrying eukaryotic gene regulatory elements that can express the specific antigens.

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12 DNA vaccines are safer than the live attenuated vaccines, and are also capable of generating cell-mediated responses in the absence of any adjutants. Unlike subunit vaccines, DNA vaccines can be developed easily as multivalent vaccines because DNA vaccines can simply mix the plasmids that code for different antigens without affecting other components of multivalent vaccines. Further, studies done in animal models have shown that vaccines that have both proteins, glycoprotein B and glycoprotein D, provide better protection from the immune response than by vaccines that carry only one protein. Furthermore, it was shown that a plasmid coding for both gB2 and gD2 external domains as a chimeric protein has a better efficiency than a combination of both. 15 An effective herpes simplex virus vaccine would most likely need to elicit both cell-mediated and humoral immunity in order to achieve a high level of immunity. 32 Some studies have demonstrated that mice immunized with a DNA cocktail produce higher level of IL-12 and IFNthan mice immunized with a protein cocktail. Furthermore, it was observed that DNA vaccinated mice showed faster viral clearance, decreased intraocular viral titers, and increased IFNand IL12 in comparison to the protein vaccinated mice group. 36 Construction of a herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 bacterial artificial chromosomes (BAC) has been demonstrated. In addition to delivery of nonreplicating viral genomes, BAC could also be used to deliver the genome of a replicating virus for live virus immunization. However certain disadvantages, such as safety concerns and potential virus latency and persistence have hindered the development of a vaccine with BAC. 16 Immunity caused by purified protein vaccine is achieved by inducing antibody production and CD4+ T cell response but not CD8+ major histocompatibility complex

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13 (MHC)-Irestricted CTL or innate response. In contrast, some other studies using HSV DNA encoding of the influenza virus nucleoprotein (NP) were shown to induce high titers of neutralizing antibody against the NP. Thus, immunization with DNA induces a more complete immune response compared to protein vaccines. 36 It was demonstrated that intravaginal inoculation of HSV 2 could elicit immunity that can eliminate virus and provide a high level of protection against the spread of the virus via sensory ganglion. Some studies were carried out to find out the action of intranasal inoculation of attenuated HSV 2 in eliciting protecting immunity against genital herpes infection and spread via ganglion. It was demonstrated that comparable immunity could be elicited by the intranasal inoculation compared to the intravaginal inoculation and it was suggested that this immunity is mostly due to the humoral immunity. 32 Herpes Simplex Virus and Gene Therapy Herpes simplex virus has been successfully used as a vector in gene therapy. 21 They are large DNA viruses with the potential to accommodate large or multiple transgene cassettes. HSV 1 is preferred because it establishes latency in neurons. Latency is a state in which viral genome persists in the host as intranuclear episomal elements. It has been demonstrated that herpes simplex virus growth can be inhibited by the Rnase P ribozyme. 45 Ribozymes are RNA enzymes that can specifically cleave a RNA sequence of choice. These demonstrate a catalytic and irreversible cleavage of the target RNA. It has been observed that both hammerhead and hairpin ribozymes could inhibit viral replication. 45

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14 Virus and RNA Interference RNA Interference Double-stranded RNA has been shown to silence gene expression in a wide variety of organisms. 14 This silencing can happen at post-transcriptional or transcriptional levels. Hence this mechanism is divided into two categories: post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) and transcriptional gene silencing (TGS). The cells do not impede their own gene expression. Therefore an RNA trigger for gene silencing has to be recognized as foreign to the cells. The double-stranded nature of a silencing RNA is considered one potential character to be recognized as foreign to the cells. PTGS acts by decreasing the half-life of RNA. Therefore, the naturally stable RNAs are dramatically affected compared to the RNAs that are rapidly synthesized and degraded. It was hypothesized that a decrease in mRNA might activate the RNA production that restores the expression level. Several models were hypothesized showing how the RNA involved in PTGS can trigger chromosome modification. 19 The long doublestranded RNA molecules used for RNA interference havent shown success in gene silencing in vertebrates because long-double stranded RNA activates the vertebrate interferon response. 12 It was shown that the interfering RNAs (RNAis) identified in plants are initially cleaved into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which are ~21 nt long double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecules having 2 nt 3 overhangs. This reaction is mediated by a cytoplasmic Rnase III family enzyme called dicer and these double-stranded RNA molecules are termed small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). One strand of this siRNA duplex is incorporated into the RNA induced silencing complex (RISC), a large protein complex. The RNA guides the complex to the homologous mRNA molecule and then cleaves the target mRNA. Finally, the RISC will be released and the cleaved RNA will be degraded. The synthetic siRNAs

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15 have been discovered and shown to be effective in RNA silencing. A synthetic siRNA has only a 19 nt long double-stranded region, which wont activate the interferon system. 13 Small interference RNAs (siRNAs), 21-23 nucleotide long double-stranded RNA molecules could specifically cleave targets mRNAs. The siRNA cleavage action is not affected by the secondary structure of mRNA and the efficiency of siRNA is determined by the siRNA specific properties. This property is in contrast with the antisense, where silencing is dependent on mRNA properties such as target site accessibility, which is determined by local mRNA confirmation. Some studies carried out by Elbashir et. al have come up with selection criteria for the design of siRNA sequences as follows. They have shown that the siRNA should be 21 nt long, and the sequence should preferably be 50 to 100 nt downstream of the start codone. The selected sequence site should not be in untranslated regions. The selected sequence should carry 5-AA (N19) UU, where N is any nucleotide in the mRNA sequence. Further, they recommended performing a blast search of a respective organism to ensure a specificity of selected siRNA sequences on the cleavage of the target sequence. 18 Recent studies done by A Reynold et. al were able to publish eight characteristics associated with siRNA functionality, such as low G/C content, an absence of inverted repeats, proper internal stability at the sense strand 3-terminus, and base preferences at positions 3, 10, 13 and 19 of the sense strand. It was shown that there was an improved efficiency of siRNA that were designed according to the above criteria. 39 MicroRNAs (miRNA) are encoded within the eukaryotic genome as short hairpin RNA structures. It was proposed that a long hairpin structure (priMRNA) is cleaved by

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16 an enzyme termed RNase III or Dorsha, into ~70 nt long intermediates termed pre-mRNAs. These pre-mRNAs are processed by the dicer into ~21 nt molecules termed miRNAs which specifically block the translation rather than degrading the mRNA. In contrast to siRNA molecules, microRNA molecules have one or two mismatches in the stem while siRNAs are perfectly double-stranded. It was shown that miRNA can function as siRNA to degrade mRNA when they encounter a perfect mRNA target. Similarly, siRNA was shown to function as miRNA, thus blocking the translation of target mRNA when there are few mismatches between the siRNA and the target mRNA. 14 Synthetic siRNAs are expensive and transfection is not efficient in all cell types of interest. The effects of siRNA wont last long due to the degradation and dilution of siRNA in the subsequent cell replication. Several groups have developed short hairpin RNAs that are structurally analogous to pre-mRNA hairpin intermediates, using promoters that depend on the RNA polymerase III. 13 In addition to the reported success of siRNAs in cancer research, plant and gene studies, siRNAs have also shown effectiveness in reducing the replication of certain viruses such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, Human papilloma virus and Poliovirus. 5,7,8,20,24,31,38 Off-Target Effect of siRNA It was observed that siRNA exerts non-specific effects called off-target effects. These effects might be due to a siRNA effect or miRNA effect of the oligonucleotide molecules on the off-target mRNAs. However, some studies have shown that siRNA molecules dont activate the IFN response, which is known to be activated by long double-stranded RNA molecules in the cells. 40

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17 In contrast, some studies were able to demonstrate that siRNA-mediated gene silencing has sequence specificity and does not induce detectable secondary changes in the global gene expression pattern. 12 Several possible nonspecific effects such as cross-hybridization and degradation of nonspecific mRNA, aptamer effects due to the binding with cellular proteins in a sequence specific manner, interference in translation by miRNA effect, and induction of dsRNA response were identified as potential ways to, exert nonspecific effects of siRNA. It was shown that siRNA is highly specific for targeted gene knockdown by microarray analysis. 41 In contrast, it was demonstrated that siRNA can exert its nonspecific effect by cross-hybridization. 41

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CHAPTER 3 MATERIALS AND METHODS Cell Culture The effect of siRNA on the replication of HSV 1 and HSV 2 was measured using cell cultures. Rabbit skin cells were grown in the minimum essential medium supplemented with 5% calf serum, 100 units/ml penicillin, and 100 g/ml streptomycin. HeLa cells were grown in the minimum essential medium supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum 100 units/ml of penicillin, and 100 g/ml of streptomycin. During transfections the cells were grown in the same type of medium without antibiotics. Cells were incubated in a 5% CO 2 humidified incubator at 37C. Cell passages were carried out regularly and cells were not maintained beyond 30 passages after thawing the stock culture. Assessment of transfection efficiency to determine the optimal siRNA concentration was done using Lab-Tek II Chamber slides. Confluent 250 ml (75 cm 2 ) flasks were trypsinized, cell suspensions were diluted 1:10, and 125 l of aliquots were transferred into each chamber. All the experiments were carried out in 35 mm cell culture dishes. One day before siRNA transfection, the confluent cells grown in 250 ml (75 cm 2 ) cell culture flasks were trypsinized with 5 ml of trypsin. After adding 10 ml of antibiotics free medium to the trypsinized sample the cells were centrifuged at 2000 g for 5 minutes. The cell pellet was resuspended in 16 ml of antibiotics free medium. 500 l of cell suspensions were 18

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19 transferred into the dishes that contained 2.5 ml of antibiotic free medium. The experiments carried out to assay the plaque forming units in the same dishes were seeded with the cells in 1:14 dilution to achieve 100 % of confluency at the time of infection. The plaque assays were carried out in 24 well plates. One day before the infection, 2 ml of medium were added to the dishes. Confluent cells grown in 250 ml (75 cm 2 ) cell culture flasks were trypsinized with 5 ml of trypsin. Cell suspension was diluted into 1:16 and about 330 l (1 ml into three wells) of cell suspensions were added to each well. Cell proliferation assays were carried out in 96 well plates. Confluent cells grown in 250 ml (75 cm 2 ) cell culture flasks were trypsinized with 5 ml of trypsin. Cell suspension was diluted into 1:66 and 100 l was added to each well. Virus Stock Initial virus stock was obtained by large-scale growth of the HG52 strain of HSV 2. Two sub-confluent 75 cm 2 flasks were infected with HSV 2 (HG52). These infections were carried out in multiplicity of infection (MOI) of 0.001 in infecting inoculums of 7 ml. Incubation for one hour at 37C was carried out to allow virus adsorption. Following incubation, 25 ml of supplemented media was added. At three days postinfection, the harvested infected cells were transferred to 250 ml Sorvall TM bottles. Virus pellets were obtained by spinning the bottles at 10,000 rpm for 40 minutes at 4C. The pellet was resuspended in 2 ml of medium. The stock was frozen and thawed once and was vortexed vigorously. The stocks were stored at -70C in 200 l aliquots. One aliquot was titrated to determine the virus titer of the stock.

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20 Virus Assay Viruses were grown in 35 mm dishes in different MOI with different treatment conditions to detect the effect of siRNA on HSV replication (virus burst) in rabbit skin cells or in HeLa cells. These infections were performed on the third day after seeding or 24 hours post-transfection. The dishes were infected with the appropriate multiplicity of infection in infecting inoculums of 500 l. After the dishes were incubated for 1 hour at 37C to allow the virus to adsorb, 1.5 ml of supplemented medium were added. The viruses were harvested at the appropriate time periods indicated in the experimental designs. Titers of virus yields were determined by plaque assay carried in 24 well plates. These plates were seeded with rabbit skin cells as indicated in the cell culture procedure. On the following day, virus infections were carried out in different dilutions. All the titrations were done in triplicates. Some experiments to detect the plaque forming units were performed in 35 mm dishes. These experiments followed a similar protocol with a few exceptions. Before adding 2 ml of the supplement medium, the infecting inoculums were removed. Three days post-infection the dishes with infected cells were stained using methylene blue and the number of plaques were counted. Design of siRNA Gene sequences of HSV 1 and HSV 2 were obtained from NCBI web site with accession NC_001798 for HSV 2 and accession NC_001806 for HSV 1. The Ambion web tool ( http://www.ambion.com/techlib/tb/tb_506.html ) was used to detect the possible target sites and siRNA sense and antisense sequences. HSV 2 and HSV 1 sequences were

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21 aligned using the NCBI blast align two sequences (bl2seq) web tool to identify the homologues gene sequences. The best possible target sites were determined by considering the published criteria. 17,18 Several homologous target sites for siRNA were identified for HSV 1 and HSV 2. Target sites and siRNA sequences for sense and using the NCBI blast align two sequences (bl2seq) web tool to identify the homologues gene sequences. The best possible target sites were determined by considering the published criteria. 17,18 Several homologous target sites for siRNA were identified for HSV 1 and HSV 2. Target sites and siRNA sequences for sense and A B Figure 1. Designing siRNA molecules. A) siRNA target sites. B) Sense and antisense sequences of siRNA molecules.

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22 antisense oligonucleotides are shown in figures 1A and 1B respectively. The siRNA sense and antisense oligonucletides were purchased as 2-ACE protected RNA from Dharmacon Research (Lafayette, Colorado). HSV 2 sequence is shown above and HSV 1 sequence is shown below. The number indicates the site of the nucleotide at the ICP4 gene. Deprotection of siRNA The tubes containing protected oligonucleotides were centrifuged and 400 l of 2deprotection buffer (100 mM acetic acid) were added. RNA pellets were redissolved by pipetting back and forth. Adequate amounts of RNA oligonucleotides in a deprotection buffer were transferred into a separate tube and the remaining were stored at 70C. The samples were vortexed for 10 seconds, spun for 10 seconds, and incubated at 60C for 30 minutes. Samples were dried using a SpeedVac and resuspended in RNase free water to make 50 M oligonucleotides samples. Annealing of siRNA Equal amounts of sense and antisense RNA were mixed together in 1X siRNA annealing buffer, (6 mM HEPES pH 7.4, 20 mM potassium acetate, 0.4 mM magnesium acetate), and were mixed properly by vortexing. The samples were first denatured by incubating them for 3 minutes at 90C, and then incubated for 1 hour at 37C. The annealed samples were stored at -20C until transfection. Labeling of siRNA Cy3 labeled siRNA (Silencer TM siRNA labeling kitCy3 from Ambion) was used to detect the optimal condition for the siRNA transfection. 100 l of reconstitution solution was added to the labeling reagent and mixed well. The labeling reaction was assembled

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23 according to the manufacturers protocol and incubated for 37C for 1 hour. Following ethanol precipitation, the RNA pellet was resuspended in nuclease free water. Transfection of siRNA Cells were seeded one day before the transfection as indicated in cell culture methods. Fifteen l of 20 M siRNA duplex was mixed with 250 l of Opti-Mem. In a separate tube, 15 l of Oligofectamine was mixed with 60 l of Opti-Mem and incubated at room temperature for 10 minutes. The two solutions were combined and incubated for 25 minutes at room temperature. The final volume of 500 l was obtained by adding 160 l of fresh Opti-Mem. Finally, without replacing the growth medium, 500 l of liposome complex was added to each dish and gently mixed by brief rocking. RNA Extraction HSV 2 (HG52) were grown in 35 mm dishes as indicated before. The medium was poured off and 1 ml of TriZol reagent was added to each dish. The samples were homogenized by passing the cell lysate several times through the pipette. Following incubation for five minutes at 30C, 0.2 ml of chloroform was added. Following a vigorous shaking of the tubes by hand, the samples were incubated for 2 to 3 minutes at 15 to 30C. Samples were centrifuged at 12000 g for 10 minutes. The aqueous phase was transferred into tubes and RNA precipitation was performed by mixing with 0.5 ml isopropyl alcohol, incubating for 10 minutes at 15 to 30C, and spinning at 12000 g for 10 minutes at 2 to 8 C. The RNA pellet was washed by adding 1 ml of 75% ethanol, vortexing, and spinning the samples at 7500 g for 5 minutes at 2 to 8C. The RNA pellets were then air-dried and were redissolved in RNase free water.

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24 DNA was removed from the samples of RNA by DNase treatment (DNAfree TM by Ambion). Briefly, samples were diluted to 100 g RNA/ml. Then 0.1 volume of 10X DNase I buffer, and 2-3 l DNase I were added to the samples which were then incubated for 1 hour at 37C. Five l of DNase inactivation reagent were added to each of the samples. Following an incubation of 2 minutes at room temperature, the samples were centrifuged at 10000 g for 1 minute. RNA solutions were then transferred to fresh RNase free tubes. Reverse transcription was carried out by using the first strand cDNA synthesis kit by Amersham Biosciences. Briefly, RNA samples were heated to 65C for 10 minutes and then chilled on ice. The uniform suspension of bulk first-strand cDNA reaction mix was added according to the manufacturers protocol. One l of DTT solution, and 1 l of pd (N) 6 primer (0.2 g) were then added to the heat-denatured RNA. Samples were mixed properly by pipetting up and down several times and then incubated for 1 hour at 37C. Real time PCR primers and probes were purchased from Applied Biosystems using assay by design. As an endogenous control, eukaryotic 18s rRNA was purchased from Applied Biosystems. Cell Proliferation Assay On day one 96 well plates were seeded with rabbit skin cells as indicated in cell culture methods. The serum starvation was performed on day two, after washing the wells with PBS three times. Following another washing with PBS, the treatment medium was added to the wells on day three. Cell proliferation was assayed by using CellTiter 96

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25 Aqueous One Solution cell proliferation reagent (Promega, Madison, WI). Twenty l were added to each well and the plate was incubated for 1 to 4 hours in 5% CO2 at 37C.

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CHAPTER 4 RESULTS Assessment of Optimal siRNA Concentration for Transfection This experiment was designed to determine the optimal siRNA concentration for transfection in HeLa cells. In this study an optimal efficient range for the siRNA transfection was observed to be 100 nM to 200 nM. (Figure 2) Approximately 80% transfections efficiency was observed at the concentrations of 100 nM. This data was comparable to published data. 3 Further transfections were performed in 100 nM to 150 nM siRNA concentrations. Evaluation of Effect of Five siRNA on HSV-2 Replication in Rabbit Skin Cells Five siRNA molecules were designed and purchased from Dharmacon (Lafayette, CO) as indicated in the materials and methods section. The aim of designing five siRNA molecules targeting one gene was to identify the most efficient siRNA and to identify siRNA molecules that have the ability to target both HSV 2 and HSV 1 genes. From here onwards, the siRNA molecules will be termed as siRNA 19, siRNA 484, siRNA 1420, siRNA 1562 and siRNA 2287, where these siRNA molecules target the ICP4 mRNA sequence beginning at nucleotides 19 (siRNA 19), 484 (siRNA 484), 1420 (siRNA 1420), 1562 (siRNA 1562), and 2287 (siRNA 2287) in ICP4 gene of HSV 2. The alignment of ICP4 genes of HSV 2 and HSV 1 revealed that siRNA 1420 and siRNA 1562 and siRNA 2287 should target both HSV 1 and HSV 2 ICP4 genes since the two genes have identical nucleotide sequences at the 22 nucleotides down stream of these positions. The siRNA 1420 has one mismatch with the HSV 1 ICP4 gene. The other two 26

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27 siRNA molecules, siRNA 19 and siRNA 484 did not share any sequence similarity between HSV 1 ICP4 gene and HSV 2 ICP4 gene. This experiment was done in quadruplicates. The cells were seeded in 35mm dishes as indicated in materials and methods on day one of the experiment. The following day, the cells were transfected with siRNA at the concentration of 100 nM. Four dishes in one group were treated with Oligofectamine only and were termed the mock group, four dishes in another group treated with Oligofectamine and scramble siRNA, and were termed the scramble group. The remaining four dishes were treated with Oligofectamine and specific siRNA 19, and were termed the siRNA 19 group. Dishes were infected at a low MOI of 0.001 two days after transfection with siRNA, and virus was harvested from the infected cells at 12 hours post-infection. The plaque assay results are shown in Figure 3 and Table1. The difference between virus yields observed in mock transfected group and scramble siRNA transfected group were not statistically significant. However, the virus yields from cells transfected with the five different siRNA molecules revealed a statistically significant reduction in virus replication compared to the scrambled siRNA treated control group. Among all five siRNA treated groups, cells transfected with the siRNA 19 had highest percent reduction (81.7%). Furthermore, the siRNA 484, siRNA 1420, siRNA 1562, and siRNA 2287 showed percent reductions of 45%, 63%, 77.3%, and 68%, respectively, compared to the scramble siRNA control group. These data imply that the five siRNA groups have a specific effect on the reduction of virus replication. Furthermore, it revealed that siRNA 19 was the most effective siRNA. Thus, siRNA 19 was used extensively during further experimental investigations.

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28 Identification of the Best Cell Culture Model to Assess the Effect of siRNA on Reduction of Virus Replication Our previous experiments showed that siRNA 19 was most effective in reducing production HSV 2 virus in rabbit skin cells. We also wanted to identify the most suitable cell culture model for further experiments. Using the experimental protocol detailed above, a similar experiment was carried out using cultures of HeLa human cervical carcinoma cells to measure the effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 replication. As shown in Figure 4, siRNA 19 significantly reduced replication of HSV 2 in HeLa cells by about 72%. This result suggests that the reduction of HSV 2 replication in HeLa cells is almost as effective as previously shown using HSV 2 replication in rabbit skin cells. As rabbit skin cells give a better monolayer for plaque assays, further experiments were carried out in rabbit skin cell cultures. Effect of siRNA on Plaque Formation This experiment was carried out to observe the effect of siRNA on the plaque formation of HSV 2 in rabbit skin cells. As shown in Figure 5 and Table 3, a 49% reduction in plaque formation of HSV 2 was exerted by siRNA. Evaluation of Effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 Replication with Different Multiplicities of Infection and Harvested at Different Time Points Further experiments were carried out by changing the MOI and harvesting virus at different time points. The aim of these experiments was to assess if siRNA 19 was effective in the reduction of virus replication even in higher multiplicity of infections at longer time periods. As shown in Figure 6, it was observed that siRNA 19 was effective in the reduction of HSV 2 replication even in high MOI. These experiments yielded a 78% reduction of virus replication comparing to the mock transfected group and 79% reduction of virus replication compared to the cells treated with scrambled siRNA. These

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29 percent reduction in virus plaque forming units were as high as previously shown values for low MOI. In order to detect the efficiency of siRNA over a longer time period, a similar experiment was carried out with an MOI of 0.01 and virus harvested at 36 hours post-infection. This experiment was expected to show a greater reduction of virus yields with longer harvesting times periods because more cycles of virus replication could occur. As shown in Figure 7 and Table, the number of plaque forming units was reduced about 93% compared with the scramble group. This is the highest reduction in virus yield observed for all the different experimental conditions. This outcome suggests that siRNA effect will last at least for 72 hours post-transfection. Unexpectedly, there was a significantly low yield of virus in the mock transfected group compared to the scramble transfected group. Since the seeding and the infection were all carried out at the same time with the same sample of cell suspensions and virus suspensions, this finding could not be explained by the seeding or infection bias. Considering other possibilities, it was suggested that this effect could be due to poor adsorption of the virus. The stacking of the dishes during incubation might have interfered with even virus adsorption. To prevent this happening in future experiments, the dishes were briefly rocked several times during the 1 hour incubation. This experiment was further extended by harvesting virus at 72 hours (96 post-transfection) and 96 hours (120-hours post-transfection) to observe the lasting effect of siRNA over a longer duration. As shown in Figures 8 and 9, virus yields were reduced at both time points by siRNA 19 compared to the scramble group, but the decreases in virus production were not statistically significant (shown in Tables 5 and 6).

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30 Comparison of Growth of HSV 2 Virus Between Mock Transfected Group, Scramble siRNA Transfected Group and siRNA 19 Transfected Group The following experiment was carried out with a high MOI of 3, and virus was harvested at 4 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours. Because of the high MOI, we expected there would be a single burst of virus at the 12 hour post-infection with no additional increase in virus at the subsequent time points (24 and 48 hours). This experiment followed a similar protocol as described earlier. As shown in Figure 11, at 4 hours post-infection, reductions in virus yield were similar for all three treatment groups. This suggests that the different reductions in virus yields in cells treated with Oligofectamine only, scrambled siRNA or siRNA 19 observed in previous experiments were not due to different levels of HSV adsorption. Surprisingly, the virus showed a delayed viral replication rather than giving a single viral burst at 12 hours post-infection. Even more surprising was the fact that the virus yields observed in scramble transfected groups and siRNA 19 transfected groups at 24 hours were lower than the virus yields observed at 12 hours. However, virus replication resumed after 24 hours, producing more virus at 48 hours. Statistical analysis of the data (Table 6) revealed a persistent effect of siRNA on the reduction of HSV 2 replication. However, the reason for the delay in virus replication has yet to be determined. Cell Proliferation Assay In this experiment, cell proliferation was measured in cells grown in three different conditions: serum free medium; medium with 5% serum; medium with 5% serum and Oligofectamine; medium with 5% serum, Oligofectamine and scramble siRNA; medium with 5% serum, Oligofectamine and siRNA 19; and medium with 5% serum, Oligofectamine and siRNA 1420. The last four conditions represent the mock transfected,

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31 the scramble transfected, the siRNA #1 transfected groups and the siRNA #3 transfected groups that were discussed in previous experiments. Statistical analysis of the data revealed a significant difference in mock transfected and scramble transfected groups except at the 24 hour time point. Interestingly, at all time points the differences between absorbencies of scramble transfected and siRNAs 19 and 1420 transfected groups were not statistically significant.

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32 A Oligofectamine +50 nM siRNA-transfection efficiency=49.2% Oligofectamine +100 nM siRNA transfection efficiency=81.7% Oligofectamine +150 nM siRNA -transfection efficiency=52.8% Oligofectamine +200 nM siRNA -transfection efficiency=64.7% Oligofectamine +250 nM siRNA -transfection efficiency=44.8% Figure 2. Optimizing transfection conditions. A) Transfection efficiency of siRNA in different siRNA concentration. B) Uptake of liposomal complexes in to the cells in different siRNA concentrations

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33 B Figure 2. Continued. 050000100000150000200000250000300000350000MockScramblesiRNAHSV 2-19siRNAHSV 2-484siRNAHSV 2-1420siRNAHSV 2-1562siRNAHSV 2-2287ConditionsPFU Figure 3. The effect of five siRNA molecules on HSV 2 replication at MOI of 0.001 in rabbit skin cells at 12 hours post-infection.

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34 Table 1. Percent reduction and the P values between siRNAs and scramble Group Percent Reduction P Value siRNA vs. Scramble siRNA 19 81.7% 0.008 siRNA 484 45% 0.048 siRNA 1420 63% 0.051 siRNA 1562 77.3% 0.004 siRNA 2287 68% 0.009 010002000300040005000600070008000MockScramblesiRNA 19ConditionsPFU Figure 4. Effect of siRNA #1 on HSV-2 replication grown in HeLa cells Table 2. Percentage reduction and P values of results shown in Figure 4 Group % Reduction siRNA19 vs. Mock % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Scramble P Value Mock vs Scramble P Value Scramble vs SiRNA 19 P Value Mock vs SiRNA 19 siRNA 19 71.9% 71.31% 0.009 0.947 0.047

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35 0100200300400500600700MockScramblesiRNA 19ConditionsNumber of plaque s Figure 5. Effect of siRNA on plaque formation of HSV-2 Table 3. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 5 Group % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Mock % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Scramble P Value Mock vs. Scramble P Value Scramble vs. SiRNA19 P Value Mock vs. siRNA 19 siRNA 19 53% 49% 0.606 0.008 0.000035 02000004000006000008000001000000120000014000001600000MockScramblesiRNA 19TreatmentPFU Figure 6. Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication at high multiplicity of infection (MOI of 1) infected cells were harvested at 13 hours post-infection.

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36 Table 4. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 6 Group % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Mock % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Scramble P Value Mock vs. Scramble P Value Scramble vs. SiRNA 19 P Value Mock vs. SiRNA 19 siRNA 19 78% 79% 0.86 0.00024 0.035 0100000200000300000400000500000600000MockScramblesiRNA 19ConditionsPFU Figure 7. Effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 replication with infection of MOI of 0.01 at 36 hours post-infection Table 5. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 7 Group % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Mock % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Scramble P Value Mock vs. Scramble P Value Scramble vs. SiRNA 19 P Value Mock vs. SiRNA 19 siRNA 19 89% 92.7% 0.04 0.00000701 0.0000174

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37 05000001000000150000020000002500000MockScramblesiRNA 19ConditionsPFU Figure 8. Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication with MOI of 0.01 at 72 hours post-infection Table 6. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 8 Group % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Mock % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Scramble P Value Mock vs. Scramble P Value Scramble vs. siRNA 19 P Value Mock vs. siRNA 19 siRNA 19 32% 12.6% 0.18 0.66 0.21 050000001000000015000000200000002500000030000000MockScramblesiRNA 19ConditionsPFU Figure 9. Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication with MOI of 0.01 at 96 hours post-infection

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38 Table7. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 9 Group % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Mock % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Scramble P Value Mock vs. Scramble P Value Scramble vs. siRNA 19 P Value Mock vs. siRNA 19 siRNA 19 55% 13% 0.019 0.62 0.003 0100000020000003000000400000050000006000000700000080000009000000MockScramblesiRNA 19siRNA -1420siRNA -1562mixConditionsPFU Figure 10. Effect of siRNA on HSV-1 replication in rabbit skin cells. Table 8. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 10 Group % Reduction siRNAs Mock % Reduction siRNA vs. Scramble P Value Mock vs. Scramble P Value Scramble vs. siRNA P Value Mock vs.siRNA SiRNA 19 32% 32.9% 0.92 0.09 0.14 SiRNA 1420 0.92 0.206 0.23 SiRNA 1562 0.92 0.783 0.768 Mix 0.92 0.087 0.118

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39 02000004000006000008000001000000120000014000001600000180000004122448Time (Hours post infection)PFU Mock Scrambel siRNA 020000040000060000080000010000001200000140000016000001800000010203040506Time post infectionPF 0 U Mock Scrambel siRNA Figure 11. Virus replication assessments. A) Bar graph assessment of virus replication at different time points. B) Line graph assessment of virus replication at different time points Table 9. Percentage reductions and P values of the results shown in figure 11A Group % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Mock % Reduction siRNA 19 vs. Scramble P Value Mock vs. Scramble P Value Scramble vs. SiRNA 19 P Value Mock vs. SiRNA 19 4 hours 0.447 0.689 0.58 12 hours 36.8% 42% 0.28 0.022 0.031 24 hours 64% 37% 0.11 0.33 0.004 48 hours 45% 43% 0.86 0.018 0.018 B A

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40 0.1700.1800.1900.2000.2100.2200.230SF5% serum5%+OF5%+OF+C55+OF+siRNA 195%+OF+siRNA 1420ConditionsAbsorbance A B C Figure 12. Cell proliferation assays at different time points post-transfection. A) 24 hours. B) 48 hours. C) 72 hours.

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41 Figures 12A, 12B and 12C show the cell proliferation assay data. SF indicates that the samples are treated with serum free medium, 5% indicates medium with 5% serum, OF indicates Oligofectamine, C indicates scramble siRNA treatment, 19 indicates siRNA 19 treatment, siRNA 1420 indicates siRNA 1420 treatment. Table 10. P Values of the data shown in figures 12A, 12B and 12C. Conditions 24 hours 48 hours 72 hours Mock vs. Scramble 0.6 0.0000002 0.0000000013 Scramble vs. siRNA 19 0.32 0.18 0.55 Scramble vs. siRNA 1420 0.35 0.03 0.22

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CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION The Importance of New Therapeutic Measures for HSV Genital herpes is the most prevalent genital ulcer disease worldwide. 16 Although HSV 2 most commonly causes genital ulcers, the frequency of genital ulcer disease caused by HSV 1 is increasing. 28 Antiviral agents such as nucleoside analogs like Acyclovir and Valacyclovir, guanosine analogs like Penciclovir and Famciclovir, pyrimidine nucleoside analogs like Trifluridine, and adenine analogs like Vidarabine are available as treatments for herpes infections. 9 Along with the oral antiviral agents, topical forms of Penciclovir and Acyclovir are used in patients with recurrent herpes labialis, an ocular formulation of Acyclovir is used for the treatment of ocular herpes, and an Acyclovir ointment is available for use in genital herpes cases. Although these therapies reduce the duration of illness and viral shedding they do not alter the frequency of recurrences. In current practice, the individuals who have frequent recurrences are treated with daily suppressive therapy, but there is no sustained effect after discontinuation of treatment. Clinical studies have revealed an emergence of drug resistance in about 0.3% of immunocompetent hosts and about 4 to 7% in immunocompromised patients with the use of Acyclovir, Penciclovir and their prodrugs over the last two decades. 2 Further, it was observed that the prevalence of Acyclovir resistant HSV is higher in severely immunocompromised patients than in immunocompetent patients. 2,9,43 It was reported that Acyclovir resistance is mainly due to thymidine kinase mutations, and less frequently, due to mutations in viral DNA polymerase. 9,26,25,34 These mutations were 42

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43 identified to result in decreased or absent HSV thymidine kinase production, altered affinity of the thymidine kinase for Acyclovir-triphosphate, or altered affinity of the HSV DNA polymerase for acyclovir-triphosphate. 9,37 Although the reactivation of Acyclovir-resistant HSV may still be rare and unrecognized in immunocompetent people, new therapeutic and preventive strategies for HSV disease are needed to prevent the rise of drug resistant HSV. Although it has been demonstrated that the utilization of higher doses of Acyclovir for longer periods of time has improved the outcome of neonatal HSV disease, morbidity and mortality from neonatal HSV infections remain unacceptably high. 25 As there is an increasing prevalence in immunocompromised population due to the improvements in life expectancy for the immunocompromised, for example, people in immunosuppressive therapy with organ transplants and patients with AIDS, the maintenance of life-long prophylactic treatment to prevent HSV recurrences could significantly impact the cost of patient care. Secondly, there is a need for a new treatment strategy to overcome the emergence of drug resistant HSV infection. Since neither of the available antiviral therapies cures the latent herpes infection there is a significant need for a new treatment strategy that targets the replication mechanism of the virus at the transcriptional or posttranscriptional level. Feasibility of RNA Interference as a Therapeutic Measure in HSV Infection. siRNAs are typically 21nt double-stranded molecules that specifically cleave mRNA leading post-transcriptional regulation. 17 Although siRNAs are known to be highly specific it has recently been shown that siRNAs are effective in single mutations located in the center of molecules, and up to four mutations are required for complete inactivation. 17,10 Spontaneous or drug induced mutations are known to be the major cause of drug resistance to many viruses. Hence the ability to tolerate one or few mismatches

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44 makes siRNA an appealing strategy for HSV treatment. siRNA molecules could be delivered either exogenously or endogenously. Exogenous delivery offers the possibility of designing therapeutic siRNAs for acute HSV infections only when the siRNAs need to be delivered immediately and should be active only for a short duration. Recent studies have shown that short hairpin siRNAs can be expressed in plasmid or viral vectors such as adenoviral and lentiviral. These short hairpin siRNAs were shown to express for longer durations. This quality of siRNA offers the possibility to chronically express the therapeutic siRNA in host, which will inhibit the recurrence of herpes infections. siRNAs have been shown to be effective in decreasing virus production in HIV-1 11,22,30,33,42 Hepatitis C 24 Human papilloma virus 31 and Hepatitis B virus. 23 Furthermore, it was shown that short hairpin siRNA expressed in plasmid or virus vectors can exert a sustained inhibition of viral replication. How is This Study Designed to Overcome the Prevailing Drawbacks in Current Treatment Methods? In order to overcome the antiviral resistance to thymidine kinase and viral polymerase, we designed and tested siRNA molecules that target an essential immediate early gene, ICP4. In order to address the possible failure in siRNA treatment due to virus mutations that could occur in the ICP4 gene, five siRNA molecules were designed and shown to be effective in the reduction of HSV 2 replication. Statistical analysis of this data revealed a significant reduction in virus yields in the samples treated with siRNA molecules. Three siRNA molecules, siRNA 1420, siRNA 1562,and siRNA 2287, were designed to target the identical gene sequence region observed between HSV 1 and HSV 2. Here we suggest that these areas of the ICP4 gene carry less of a chance for mutation. Further, this approach would enable the design of a siRNA that could target

PAGE 55

45 both HSV 1 and HSV 2 viruses. Surprisingly, the results observed in the experiment on HSV 1 using siRNA 1420, siRNA 1562, and siRNA 2287 did not reveal any effectiveness on the reduction of HSV 1 replication. However, the same siRNAs had a promising effect on the reduction of HSV 2 replication. This finding suggests that the siRNA function might be affected by the secondary structure of target mRNA. This suggestion contradicts the previous published data that states that siRNA function is not affected by the secondary structure of mRNA. 18 It is also possible that the high MOI used with the HSV 1 experiment over whelmed the effect of the siRNA. This concept could be tested by performing the experiment with a low MOI of HSV 1 of 0.001. Effects shown in HeLa cells of virus replication show a significant reduction on HSV 2 replication by siRNA 19. This suggests the ability of siRNA 19 to reduce HSV 2 replication in human cells. In this study we preformed an experiment to test the effect of siRNA on plaque formation of HSV 2. Usually relatively healthy cells are needed to obtain a monolayer, in which the plaques can be preformed. Although siRNAs have been reported to have minor toxicity on the cells (off target effects), our results (Figure 5 and Table 3) suggest that any nonspecific siRNA effects did not influence the formation of a monolayer. Further studies shown in Figures 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11 were carried out to detect the siRNA effect on different MOI harvesting at longer time points (24, 36, 48, and 72, and 96 hours). These studies revealed a sustained successful effect of siRNA over reduction in virus replication over at least 72 hours post-transfection. A trend of increased reduction of virus replication with time was observed until the infection reached 72 hours postinfection or more. This trend was expected, as HSV 2 is usually known to have continuously rising

PAGE 56

46 virus titers. The reduction in virus yield at the first burst should give rise to an even more reduced virus yields at late virus bursts. However, there was no effect of siRNA shown after 72 hours post-infection. Further, it was shown that the difference between mock transfected, scramble transfected, and siRNA 19 transfected groups observed in 76 hours post-transfection experiment are not statistically significant. The inability of siRNA to reduce the virus yield at 72 hours post-infection (i.e., at 96 hours post-transfection) could be explained by the waning effect of siRNAs at longer durations. The results suggests that the reducing effect of siRNA in survived cells in the siRNA 19 transfected group allow a reinfection leading to unopposed virus replication. Since previous literature has shown a sustained effect in short hair pin siRNA 8 in this study we would suggest that these siRNA should be expressed as short hair pin RNA in a plasmid or in a virus vectors in which these siRNAs can be expressed longer and have a better effect on the inhibition of virus replication. Although the results discussed above support the conclusion that designed siRNA molecules significantly reduce HSV 2 replication, further experiments were carried out to exclude other possibilities that could also give rise to low virus yields. It was speculated that these low yields might be due either to low virus uptake, or due to nonspecific effects of siRNA. Here we have addressed the low virus adsorption issue by showing an ecliptic effect of HSV in all three conditions in experiments shown by virus growth curve. We expected to have a single large virus burst around 12-18 hours post-infection followed by a plateau state in the growth curve detection experiment carried out with a high (MOI 3) multiplicity of infection. Surprisingly, it was observed that a delay in virus production in all three groups and virus titers varied substantially by dipping at 24 hour post-infection

PAGE 57

47 in Scramble transfected and siRNA 19 transfected groups. Previously, it was shown by S J Su et al that HSV 1 exhibits a substantial variation in virus yield at different time points. {2688} But they have also shown a continuous rise in HSV 2 infected cells. These findings were in contrast with the results of Chen j et al, who observed a continuous rise in virus titer in their growth curve experiments. 16 Further, S J Su et al. found that the cytopathic effect of both HSV 1 and HSV 2 were almost the same in the last stages. But this study showed a delay in virus replication. This could be due to some effect exerted by Oligofectamine. It was interesting to observe a similar pattern in both scramble treated and siRNA 19 treated groups, which showed a fluctuation in virus growth. Since both siRNA groups showed a similar pattern it was suggested that these results could be due to a nonspecific effect of siRNA. This finding is in accordance with published data that show the off-target effect of siRNA. 40,41 These nonspecific effects could be affecting virus growth itself or could be due to a change in the environment of virus growth such as cell death which causes less viable cells that, in turn, give rise to reduced virus replication. If the nonspecific effects of scramble treated and specific siRNA treatment cells are shown to be equal, the scramble group would still be a good control for analyzing data. The CellTiter 96 Aqueous one solution cell proliferation assay usually detects metabolically active cells. In this study we have assessed the metabolically active cells grown in different treatment groups. It was found that there was a reduced number of viable cells in all the groups that were treated with Oligofectamine. This finding suggests that Oligofectamine affects cell growth. Since all the virus yield were compared with controls containing Oligofectamine, these results would not affect the previous

PAGE 58

48 conclusions of this study. Although the absorbance of siRNA treated groups seems to be lower compared to scramble treated groups, statistical analysis revealed a non significance in such a finding. Hence, it can be concluded that the difference in the number of viable cells in different treatment groups does not affect the virus yields observed in previous experiments. These findings agree with previous published data showing that siRNA do not activate the IFN response. 12 We began this study with the hypothesis that siRNA molecules can be used to reduce virus growth by specifically targeting the ICP4 gene. Analysis of data showed that all five siRNA molecules could be used to reduce the virus growth of HSV 2. However, analysis also showed that siRNA 1420, siRNA 1562, and siRNA 2287 do not effectively inhibit the HSV 1 virus replication. Here we suggest performing a real time PCR, which would asses the quantitative reduction of the ICP4 mRNA. This study promises the possibility developing siRNA as a therapeutic measure. Further, we would suggest designing new siRNA molecules using the latest published criteria that would target ICP4 of both HSV 1 and HSV 2.

PAGE 59

CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION This study shows a specific reduction of virus replication using siRNA molecules that target ICP4, an essential immediate early gene of herpes simplex virus type 2. It was predicted that the siRNA molecule could reduce the virus replication in cell culture models. All the data shown in this study exhibited a statistically significant reduction in virus growth. The reduction of virus yields observed in this study shows a maximum possible reduction of siRNA considering the transfection efficiency and lifetime of siRNA molecules. The ability to reduce virus growth in higher multiplicity of infections suggests that the siRNA concentration used in this study would be sufficient to counteract such a high dose of infection. The inefficiency of siRNA molecules in latter time points of post-transfection indicates the importance of endogenous expression of siRNA or the importance of multiple doses of siRNA in therapeutic use. The ability of siRNA molecules to function well in rabbit skin cells predicts a success in testing these siRNA in rabbit skin models. Further, the efficiency shown in HeLa cell suggests the feasibility of using these siRNAs in human culture cell model and also developing this as a therapeutic strategy to treat herpes infections in humans. In addition, this study addresses the nonspecific effects of siRNA molecules in the cell proliferation assay. This data suggests that Oligofectamine and siRNA molecules exert a nonspecific toxic effect. However, this does not affect the conclusions made before, because these conclusions were made comparing the virus yields of scramble group and siRNA group. All these findings strongly suggest that siRNA could be used as 49

PAGE 60

50 a promising therapy in the cure of the latency of herpes infection and also could be used as a valuable strategy for the treatment of resistant herpes simplex viruses.

PAGE 61

REFERENCE LIST 1. Herpes Simplex Virus Pathogenesis, Immunology, and Control. Rouse, B.T. [179]. 1992. Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology. Ref Type: Serial (Book,Monograph) 2. Bacon, T. H., M. J. Levin, J. J. Leary, R. T. Sarisky, and D. Sutton. 2003. Herpes simplex virus resistance to acyclovir and penciclovir after two decades of antiviral therapy. Clin. Microbiol. Rev. 16:114-128. 3. Bloom, D. C. and R. G. Jarman. 1998. Generation and use of recombinant reporter viruses for study of herpes simplex virus infections in vivo. Methods 16:117-125. 4. Bloom, D. C., J. G. Stevens, J. M. Hill, and R. K. Tran. 1997. Mutagenesis of a cAMP response element within the latency-associated transcript promoter of HSV-1 reduces adrenergic reactivation. Virology 236:202-207. 5. Boden, D., O. Pusch, F. Lee, L. Tucker, and B. Ramratnam. 2003. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 escape from RNA interference. J. Virol. 77:11531-11535. 6. Boden, D., O. Pusch, F. Lee, L. Tucker, and B. Ramratnam. 2004. Efficient gene transfer of HIV-1-specific short hairpin RNA into human lymphocytic cells using recombinant adeno-associated virus vectors. Mol. Ther. 9:396-402. 7. Boden, D., O. Pusch, F. Lee, L. Tucker, P. R. Shank, and B. Ramratnam. 2003. Promoter choice affects the potency of HIV-1 specific RNA interference. Nucleic Acids Res. 31:5033-5038. 8. Boden, D., O. Pusch, R. Silbermann, F. Lee, L. Tucker, and B. Ramratnam. 2004. Enhanced gene silencing of HIV-1 specific siRNA using microRNA designed hairpins. Nucleic Acids Res. 32:1154-1158. 9. Brady, R. C. and D. I. Bernstein. 2004. Treatment of herpes simplex virus infections. Antiviral Res. 61:73-81. 10. Brummelkamp, T. R., R. Bernards, and R. Agami. 2002. Stable suppression of tumorigenicity by virus-mediated RNA interference. Cancer Cell 2:243-247. 11. Capodici, J., K. Kariko, and D. Weissman. 2002. Inhibition of HIV-1 infection by small interfering RNA-mediated RNA interference. J. Immunol. 169:5196-5201. 51

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52 12. Chi, J. T., H. Y. Chang, N. N. Wang, D. S. Chang, N. Dunphy, and P. O. Brown. 2003. Genomewide view of gene silencing by small interfering RNAs. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 100:6343-6346. 13. Cullen, B. R. 2004. Derivation and function of small interfering RNAs and microRNAs. Virus Res. 102:3-9. 14. Doench, J. G., C. P. Petersen, and P. A. Sharp. 2003. siRNAs can function as miRNAs. Genes Dev. 17:438-442. 15. Domingo, C., I. Gadea, M. Pardeiro, C. Castilla, S. Fernandez, M. A. Fernandez-Clua, De la Cruz Troca JJ, C. Punzon, F. Soriano, M. Fresno, and E. Tabares. 2003. Immunological properties of a DNA plasmid encoding a chimeric protein of herpes simplex virus type 2 glycoprotein B and glycoprotein D. Vaccine 21:3565-3574. 16. Donovan, B. 2004. Sexually transmissible infections other than HIV. Lancet 363:545-556. 17. Elbashir, S. M., J. Harborth, W. Lendeckel, A. Yalcin, K. Weber, and T. Tuschl. 2001. Duplexes of 21-nucleotide RNAs mediate RNA interference in cultured mammalian cells. Nature 411:494-498. 18. Elbashir, S. M., J. Harborth, K. Weber, and T. Tuschl. 2002. Analysis of gene function in somatic mammalian cells using small interfering RNAs. Methods 26:199-213. 19. Fire, A. 1999. RNA-triggered gene silencing. Trends Genet. 15:358-363. 20. Gitlin, L., S. Karelsky, and R. Andino. 2002. Short interfering RNA confers intracellular antiviral immunity in human cells. Nature 418:430-434. 21. Goins, W. F., D. Wolfe, D. M. Krisky, Q. Bai, E. A. Burton, D. J. Fink, and J. C. Glorioso. 2004. Delivery using herpes simplex virus: an overview. Methods Mol. Biol. 246:257-299. 22. Jacque, J. M., K. Triques, and M. Stevenson. 2002. Modulation of HIV-1 replication by RNA interference. Nature 418:435-438. 23. Jarman, R. G., E. K. Wagner, and D. C. Bloom. 1999. LAT expression during an acute HSV infection in the mouse. Virology 262:384-397. 24. Jiang, M. and J. Milner. 2002. Selective silencing of viral gene expression in HPV-positive human cervical carcinoma cells treated with siRNA, a primer of RNA interference. Oncogene 21:6041-6048.

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53 25. Kimberlin, D. W., D. M. Coen, K. K. Biron, J. I. Cohen, R. A. Lamb, M. McKinlay, E. A. Emini, and R. J. Whitley. 1995. Molecular mechanisms of antiviral resistance. Antiviral Res. 26:369-401. 26. Kost, R. G., E. L. Hill, M. Tigges, and S. E. Straus. 1993. Brief report: recurrent acyclovir-resistant genital herpes in an immunocompetent patient. N. Engl. J. Med. 329:1777-1782. 27. Kramer, M. F., W. J. Cook, F. P. Roth, J. Zhu, H. Holman, D. M. Knipe, and D. M. Coen. 2003. Latent herpes simplex virus infection of sensory neurons alters neuronal gene expression. J. Virol. 77:9533-9541. 28. Langenberg, A. G., L. Corey, R. L. Ashley, W. P. Leong, and S. E. Straus. 1999. A prospective study of new infections with herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2. Chiron HSV Vaccine Study Group. N. Engl. J. Med. 341:1432-1438. 29. Lokensgard, J. R., D. C. Bloom, A. T. Dobson, and L. T. Feldman. 1994. Long-term promoter activity during herpes simplex virus latency. J. Virol. 68:7148-7158. 30. Martinez, M. A., A. Gutierrez, M. Armand-Ugon, J. Blanco, M. Parera, J. Gomez, B. Clotet, and J. A. Este. 2002. Suppression of chemokine receptor expression by RNA interference allows for inhibition of HIV-1 replication. AIDS 16:2385-2390. 31. McCaffrey, A. P., H. Nakai, K. Pandey, Z. Huang, F. H. Salazar, H. Xu, S. F. Wieland, P. L. Marion, and M. A. Kay. 2003. Inhibition of hepatitis B virus in mice by RNA interference. Nat. Biotechnol. 21:639-644. 32. Milligan, G. N., K. L. Dudley-McClain, C. F. Chu, and C. G. Young. 2004. Efficacy of genital T cell responses to herpes simplex virus type 2 resulting from immunization of the nasal mucosa. Virology 318:507-515. 33. Novina, C. D., M. F. Murray, D. M. Dykxhoorn, P. J. Beresford, J. Riess, S. K. Lee, R. G. Collman, J. Lieberman, P. Shankar, and P. A. Sharp. 2002. siRNA-directed inhibition of HIV-1 infection. Nat. Med. 8:681-686. 34. Nugier, F., J. N. Colin, M. Aymard, and M. Langlois. 1992. Occurrence and characterization of acyclovir-resistant herpes simplex virus isolates: report on a two-year sensitivity screening survey. J. Med. Virol. 36:1-12. 35. Osorio, Y., J. Cohen, and H. Ghiasi. 2004. Improved protection from primary ocular HSV-1 infection and establishment of latency using multigenic DNA vaccines. Invest Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 45:506-514. 36. Osorio, Y., J. Cohen, and H. Ghiasi. 2004. Improved protection from primary ocular HSV-1 infection and establishment of latency using multigenic DNA vaccines. Invest Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 45:506-514.

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54 37. Pottage, J. C., Jr. and H. A. Kessler. 1995. Herpes simplex virus resistance to acyclovir: clinical relevance. Infect. Agents Dis. 4:115-124. 38. Randall, G., A. Grakoui, and C. M. Rice. 2003. Clearance of replicating hepatitis C virus replicon RNAs in cell culture by small interfering RNAs. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A 100:235-240. 39. Reynolds, A., D. Leake, Q. Boese, S. Scaringe, W. S. Marshall, and A. Khvorova. 2004. Rational siRNA design for RNA interference. Nat. Biotechnol. 22:326-330. 40. Scacheri, P. C., O. Rozenblatt-Rosen, N. J. Caplen, T. G. Wolfsberg, L. Umayam, J. C. Lee, C. M. Hughes, K. S. Shanmugam, A. Bhattacharjee, M. Meyerson, and F. S. Collins. 2004. Short interfering RNAs can induce unexpected and divergent changes in the levels of untargeted proteins in mammalian cells. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A 101:1892-1897. 41. Semizarov, D., L. Frost, A. Sarthy, P. Kroeger, D. N. Halbert, and S. W. Fesik. 2003. Specificity of short interfering RNA determined through gene expression signatures. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A 100:6347-6352. 42. Shen, C., A. K. Buck, X. Liu, M. Winkler, and S. N. Reske. 2003. Gene silencing by adenovirus-delivered siRNA. FEBS Lett. 539:111-114. 43. Stewart, J. A., S. E. Reef, P. E. Pellett, L. Corey, and R. J. Whitley. 1995. Herpesvirus infections in persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus. Clin. Infect. Dis. 21 Suppl 1:S114-S120. 44. Stingley, S. W., J. J. Ramirez, S. A. Aguilar, K. Simmen, R. M. Sandri-Goldin, P. Ghazal, and E. K. Wagner. 2000. Global analysis of herpes simplex virus type 1 transcription using an oligonucleotide-based DNA microarray. J. Virol. 74:9916-9927. 45. Trang, P., J. Lee, A. F. Kilani, J. Kim, and F. Liu. 2001. Effective inhibition of herpes simplex virus 1 gene expression and growth by engineered RNase P ribozyme. Nucleic Acids Res. 29:5071-5078. 46. Wagner, E. K. and D. C. Bloom. 1997. Experimental investigation of herpes simplex virus latency. Clin. Microbiol. Rev. 10:419-443.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Suresha Rajaguru graduated with Bachelor of Medicine degree and a Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBBS) from University of Colombo in 2001. Before joining the Master of Science program at the University of Florida in 2003, she worked as a research assistant with Dr. Denise Cooper at the University of South Florida and with Dr. Leonard Jarrett at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, Suresha will undergo residency training in Internal Medicine at Wayne State University, Michigan. After completion of her residency training she intends to work as a clinical researcher. 55


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Title: Inhibition of Herpes Simplex Virus Replication Using Small Interfering RNA that Target ICP4 Gene of Herpes Simplex Type 2
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Copyright Date: 2008

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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0007066/00001

Material Information

Title: Inhibition of Herpes Simplex Virus Replication Using Small Interfering RNA that Target ICP4 Gene of Herpes Simplex Type 2
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0007066:00001


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INHIBITION OF HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS REPLICATION USING SMALL
INTERFERING RNA THAT TARGET ICP4 GENE OF HERPES SIMPLEX TYPE 2















By

SURESHA CHANDANI RAJAGURU


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2004

































Copyright 2004

by

Suresha Chandani Rajaguru
































This thesis is dedicated to my parents and to my husband















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to express my deepest thanks to my mentor Dr. Gregory Schultz for

his support, guidance and patience in teaching. My sincere thanks go to the members of

my committee; Dr. Alfred Lewin, Dr. David Bloom and Dr. Sonal Tuli, for their support

and encouragement in the completion of the master's program.

Gratitude is owed to Dr. Adrian Timmers for his support in the purchase of

oligonucleotides. I thank the research group of Dr. Bloom for their help from the

beginning of this project to the end. Deepest thanks go to my friends in the Institute for

Wound Healing; Jia Liu, Timothy Blalock, Angel Sampson, Heejung Yang, John Azeke,

Siva Radhakrishnan, and to Dr. Chigini and his group for their encouragement and

support.

I thank my husband, Nishantha Bandara, who has given me support and

encouragement, particularly those times when I needed it most. Finally I would like to

express my gratitude to my parents; late Mr. Somapala Rajaguru and Mrs. W.

Nandawathie, for their unconditional love and support that made me who I am today.















TABLE OF CONTENTS



A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

LIST OF TABLES ................................................... vii

LIST OF FIGURES ................................................ viii

A B S T R A C T ........................................................................................................ ............ ix

CHAPTER

1 IN T R O D U C T IO N ................................................. .............................................. .

2 LITER A TU R E R EV IEW .................................................................... ...............3...

H erpes Sim plex V irus and L atency ......................................................... ...............3...
Herpes Simplex Virus Infection, Structure and Virus Replication ....................3...
H erpes Sim plex L atency .............................................. .................... .............. .7...
Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Exerts Immunity and Affects Cellular
P rotein Sy nth esis ......................................................... ............... .. ... ............. 8
Treatm ent of H erpes Sim plex Virus....................................................9...
V a c c in e .................. .. .................................................................................... . 1 0
Herpes Sim plex Virus and Gene Therapy ...................................... ................ 13
V irus and R N A Interference........................................ ....................... ............... 14
RN A Interference ... .. ................................ ........................................ 14
O ff-Target E effect of siR N A ............................................................ ............... 16

3 M A TERIAL S AN D M ETH OD S .......................................................... ................ 18

C e ll C u ltu re ................................................................................................................. 1 8
V iru s S to c k ................................................................................................................ 1 9
V iru s A ssay ............................................................................................................... .. 2 0
D design of siR N A ............... .. .................. .................. ................. ..... .... .... ........... 20
D protection of siR N A .. .................................................................. ................ 22
Annealing of siRNA ........................... .......... ........................ 22
Labeling of siRNA............................. ........... .........................22
T ransfection of siR N A .. ...................................................................... ................ 23
R N A E xtraction ................................................... ............................................... 2 3
Cell Proliferation Assay ................................................................ 24



v









4 R E S U L T S ................................................................................................................... 2 6

Assessment of Optimal siRNA Concentration for Transfection ...............................26
Evaluation of Effect of Five siRNA on HSV-2 Replication in Rabbit Skin Cells .....26
Identification of the Best Cell Culture Model to Assess the Effect of siRNA on
R education of V irus R eplication ........................................................ ................ 28
Effect of siRN A on Plaque Form ation.................... .......................... ................ 28
Evaluation of Effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 Replication with Different
Multiplicities of Infection and Harvested at Different Time Points ...................28
Comparison of Growth of HSV 2 Virus Between Mock Transfected Group,
Scramble siRNA Transfected Group and siRNA 19 Transfected Group ..............30
Cell Proliferation Assay .................................................................. 30

5 D IS C U S SIO N ................................................................................................... 42

The Importance of New Therapeutic Measures for HSV.........................................42
Feasibility of RNA Interference as a Therapeutic Measure in HSV Infection...........43
How is This Study Designed to Overcome the Prevailing Drawbacks in Current
Treatm ent M methods? ................. ..... .... ........ ................. 44

6 C O N C L U S IO N ...........................................................................................................4 9

R E F E R E N C E L IST ........................................................................................................... 5 1

BIO GR APH ICAL SK ETCH .................................................................... ................ 55















LIST OF TABLES


Table page

1 Percent reduction and the P values between siRNAs and scramble .....................34

2 Percentage reduction and P values of results shown in figure 4 ............................ 34

3 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 5 .....................35

4 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 6 .....................36

5 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 7 .....................36

6 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 8 .....................37

7 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 9 .....................38

8 Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 10 ..................38

9 Percentage reductions and P values of the results shown in figure 11A...............39

10 P Values of the data shown in figures 12A, 12B and 12C............... ................41















LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

1 D signing siR N A m olecules ..................................... ...................... ................ 21

2 O ptim izing transfection conditions ..................................................... ................ 33

3 The effect of five siRNA molecules on HSV 2 replication at MOI of 0.001 in
rabbit skin cells at 12 hours post-infection.......................................... ................ 33

4 Effect of siRNA #1 on HSV-2 replication grown in HeLa cells...........................34

5 Effect of siRNA on plaque formation of HSV-2.................................................35

6 Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication at high multiplicity of infection
(MOI of 1) infected cells were harvested at 13 hours post-infection....................35

7 Effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 replication with infection of MOI of 0.01 at 36
hours post-infection .. .................................................................................... 36

8 Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication with MOI of 0.01 at 72 hours
p o st-in fectio n ............................................................................................................ 3 7

9 Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication with MOI of 0.01 at 96 hours
p o st-in fectio n ............................................................................................................ 3 7

10 Effect of siRNA on HSV-1 replication in rabbit skin cells.................................38

11 V irus replication assessm ents.............................................................. ................ 39

12 Cell proliferation assays at different time points post-transfection.......................40














Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science

INHIBITION OF HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS REPLICATION USING SMALL
INTERFERING RNA THAT TARGET ICP4 GENE OF HERPES SIMPLEX TYPE 2

By

Suresha Chandani Raj aguru

December 2004

Chair: Gregory S. Schultz
Major Department: Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

Herpes simplex type 1(HSV 1) is the primary causative agent for ocular herpes and

Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV 2) is the primary agent for genital herpes. Herpes

simplex infections can be life-threatening in immunocompromised people and neonates.

Herpes is a neurotropic virus that establishes latency causing a lifelong infection in

sensory neuronal ganglia that supply the primary site of infection. Prophylactic oral

antiviral therapy reduces recurrences of herpes simplex keratitis (HSK) by only 40% and

has no sustained benefit following its discontinuation.15 There are three kinetic groups of

proteins that play a role in herpes simplex virus replication: immediate early, early, and

late. Immediate early genes activate the host cell transcriptional machinery. There are

five immediate early genes expressed in the earliest stages of the HSV infection cycle: ca4

(ICP4), u.0 (ICPO), uc27 (ICP27/UL50), uc22 (ICP22/ UL54), and ca47 (ICP47/ US 12).

Small interfering RNAs (siRNA) are 21-23 nucleotide RNA molecules that cleave target

mRNA sequences. In this study, we designed five siRNA molecules that target the









mRNA of the immediate early gene, ICP4. Two out of five siRNAs target both HSV 1

and HSV 2. All five siRNA molecules reduce HSV 2 (HG52) replication in rabbit skin

cells, but there was no significant reduction shown in HSV 1 replication. The most

effective siRNA molecule, siRNA19, was selected for the further studies that were

carried out on the HSV 2 replication in different time points and in different multiplicities

of infection. Treatment of RS cells with siRNA19 at 100 nM significantly reduced HSV 2

viral replication up to 92% at 12, 24 and 36, and 48 hours at low multiplicity of infection

(MOI) of 0.0001, 0.001, and at a high MOI of 3 compared to transfection with an

irrelevant siRNA. The siRNA molecules caused minor reduction in serum-stimulated

proliferation of target cells, suggesting low off target effects. These results suggest that

siRNA treatment targeting ICP4 may be an effective new therapy for treatment of HSV 2

genital herpes infection.














CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

This thesis evaluates small interfering RNA (siRNA) as a possible therapeutic

strategy in herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections. For this study, we mainly focused on

designing and testing siRNA molecules that target the ICP4 gene of HSV 2. Furthermore,

this study attempted to generate three siRNA molecules that would target the ICP4 gene

of both HSV 1 and HSV 2.

Herpes simplex is a neurotropic virus that establishes latency causing a lifelong

infection in sensory neuronal ganglia that supply the primary site of infection. HSV 1 is

the primary causative agent of labial and ocular herpes, and HSV 2 is the primary

causative agent of genital herpes. However, small percentages of genital herpes and facial

herpes infections have been reported to be caused by HSV 1 and HSV 2 respectively.

More than 50 million adults in the USA are known to harbor genital herpes which reflects

an increased incidence of HSV infections in the country overall.16 Herpes infection in

neonates and in immunocompromised people could be life-threatening. Over the past

forty years several successful antiviral agents have been used to treat herpes infections.

Unfortunately, neither of these agents was successful as a cure for the disease. Lifelong

antiviral treatment is indicated to have reduced the frequency and the duration of

recurrences in immunocompromised people. However, it was reported that there has been

no sustained effect after the discontinuation of prophylactic therapy. Over the next

twenty-five years, it is estimated that the cumulative cost of incident HSV 2 infection in

the United States will be forty-three billion dollars.16 The unavailability of a cure for









herpes infections, the cost of treatments, and the emergence of resistance to existing

antiviral therapies imply the importance of the development of a more effective treatment

method for herpes infections.

Small interfering RNAs are double-stranded 21 nucleotide RNA molecules that are

known to inhibit specific gene expressions at the post-transcriptional level. Previous

studies have shown that siRNAs are effective in the inhibition of certain viruses such as

HIV6'7'8'30,33 Hepatitis C38, Hepatitis B23, and Human papilloma virus24. The exogenous

delivery of siRNA offers a possibility of immediate delivery of therapeutic siRNAs for a

short duration in acute infections, while short hairpin siRNA molecules expressed in

plasmids or virus vectors exert a sustained effect that could be used in chronic infections.

The herpes simplex virus expresses three kinetic groups of proteins during virus

replication, named immediate early, early and late proteins. ICP4 (Uc4) is an essential

immediate early gene that is expressed at its peak at-4 hours post-infection. We

hypothesized that the specific inhibition of ICP4 mRNA would also inhibit the HSV

replication. Our overall goal was to design and test siRNA molecules that target the ICP4

gene of HSV 2. Our first specific aim was to identify the homologous sequences between

ICP4 genes of HSV 1 and HSV2. It was expected that a site of a gene that shares a

homology between two types of viruses has a better chance to be conserved in the

longrun. Furthermore, such an approach would offer the possibility to design siRNA

molecules that target both HSV 1 and HSV 2 infections at the same time. Our second

specific aim was to design and test siRNA molecules in cell culture models. Our third

specific aim was to evaluate the specificity of siRNA molecules on ICP4 gene silencing

and also to evaluate the possibility of off-target effects on cell culture.














CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW

Herpes Simplex Virus and Latency

Herpes Simplex Virus Infection, Structure and Virus Replication

Herpes viruses are enveloped, icosahedral, double-stranded viruses that belong to

the herpesviridae family. All herpes viruses consist of an icosahedral nucleocapsid

surrounded by tegument, which in turn is surrounded by an outer lipid membrane.1 The

tegument consists of proteins of which at least two proteins are believed to be involved in

the transactivation of gene expression and one of the proteins shuts off host

macromolecular synthesis. Eight glycoproteins in the virus envelope stimulate humoral

immune response.

Herpes viruses are categorized into three groups named alphaherpesvirus,

betaherpesvirus and gammaherpesvirus. There are eight human herpes viruses that have

been identified to cause diseases in humans: herpes simplex type 1 (HSV 1), herpes

simplex type 2 (HSV 2), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-barr virus (EBV),

cytomegalovirus (CMV), human herpes virus type 6 (HHV 6), human herpes virus type 7

(HHV 7), and human herpes virus type 8 (HHV 8). Among them, HSV 1 and HSV 2 are

known to cause facial and genital herpes infections. HSV 1 is the primary causative agent

of facial herpes and HSV 2 is the primary causative agent of genital herpes. However,

HSV 2 causes a small percentage of facial herpes and HSV 1 causes a small percentage

of genital herpes.46









Herpes simplex type 1 and type 2 share almost all of the transcriptional regulations.

Most of the features regarding HSV 1 replication have been identified. Both types are

known to be able to replicate in a variety of cultured mammalian cells, animals and

tissues. Thus in-vitro and in-vivo studies of these viruses have an advantage over other

herpes viruses as they adapt well to a variety of animal models, and cell and tissue culture

models.

The herpes virus has a complex genome that consists of a linear duplex molecule

with two segments of unique sequences. These unique sequences, which are bounded by

pairs of inverted repeats, are of 67 and 8.9 kb in length called unique long (UL) and

unique short (Us) regions respectively.1 Of the documented 80 viral proteins encoded in

the HSV genome, 30 gene products are known to be responsible for the structural protein

production of the virion.46 Other than transcription of transcriptional and structural

proteins, which are required for viral replication, the virus encodes for two important host

modifying proteins, the transinducing factor (ac-TIF/VP16/VMw65 / UL48/ virion

stimulatory protein) and virion host shutoff protein (UL4 1).46

The infection and virus replication begin by fusion of the virion envelop with the

cell plasma membrane, and it takes approximately 18 hours to complete the lytic cycle.

During this cycle, the viral DNA and one or more of the tegument proteins that are

transported into the cell enter the nucleus. It is known that the cellular RNA polymerase

II transcribes the virus DNA. The viral mRNA is then subjected to post-transcriptional

modifications, such as cleavage, phosphorylation, sulfation, 0- and N linked

glycosylation, and myristilation.1 A cascade of proteins synthesized during HSV









replication are grouped into three major kinetic classes; immediate early (IE or ca), early

(E or P) and late (L or y).

The five immediate early genes named, a4 (ICP4), aO (ICPO), a27 (ICP27/UL50),

cu22 (ICP22/ UL54) and ca47 (ICP47/ Us 12), are expressed and peak at 2-4 hours post-

infection. Since ca4 and uc27 map in the inverted repeat, they are diploid in the herpes

genome. ICP4 has a high molecular mass of 170-175 kDA, which is known to be due to

post-translational modification. ICP4 is known to be essential in viral replication, as it is

needed for the auto regulation, and for the activation and transcription of the early and

late genes. The active form of ICP4 protein is a homodimer and it binds to a specific

sequence of a4 and c0 genes. (The binding sites in other genes are not yet certain.) The

c0 protein is a diploid protein that is predicted to be approximately of 78 kDa, and

known to have a synergistic interaction with c4 proteins. Although it is known that uc0 is

not required for the lytic infection of the cell culture, in low multiplicity, Uc0 is required

for the significant expression of early and late kinetic proteins. The Uc27 protein is shown

to be essential in viral growth as it acts as a repressor of a and some P3 genes and is also

required for the expression of y genes. It has been shown that Uc27 plays a role in the

stabilization and export of improperly processed mRNA. There is minimal knowledge

about the functions of uc22 and ca47. It is suggested that uc22 plays a role in late gene

expression while ca47 has a supplementary effect. The ca4 and Uc27 proteins have been

shown to be targets for cytotoxic T lymphocytes; however, the role of ac22 and a47 is not

yet known.1









The seven of early (P3) genes, DNA polymerase (UL30), DNA binding protein

(UL42 and UL29/ ICP8), ORI binding protein (UL9), and the helicase /primase complex

(UL5, UL8 and UL52) have been shown to be essential in virus replication, while the rest

of the (P) gene products play only a partial role.1 In addition to its DNA polymerase

activity, the UL30 acts as a DNA-dependent polynucleotide synthetase, 3'-5' exonuclease

and RNase H. UL42 contributes to the makeup of the DNA polymerase holoenzyme in a

one-to-one complex. The complex formed by the three gene products of UL5, UL8, and

UL52 functions as a helicase and primase. The UL29 or ICP4 encodes a major DNA

binding protein that is involved in DNA replication and gene regulation. The essential (f3)

genes are mapped in the Us region and the rest are mapped in the UL region.1

The late or y proteins are involved in the structure of the viral particle and are

grouped into the two classes yl and y2, in which the yl gene encodes for the capsid

protein named VP5 while the y2 gene encodes for the glycoprotein gC. The y proteins

consist of nucleocapsid proteins named VP5, VP19C, VP21, VP22, VP23, and VP24, and

glycoproteins named gB, gC, gD, gE, gH, gI, and gJ. Among the glycoproteins, only gB,

gD, and gH are known to be essential for virus multiplication in cell culture. Viral

glycoproteins, especially gB or gC, are shown to play an essential role in the initiating

event of the virus adsorption as it interacts with the heparin sulfate proteoglycans on the

surface of the cell. The glycoproteins gB and gD are known to be involved in cell fusion

and gH also is assumed to play a role in this virus entry process. The promoter sequences

of two y2 genes carry an ca4 binding site. Thus, it is believed that c4 (ICP4) plays a role

in y gene expression. In addition, it has been shown that some other immediate early

proteins such as uc0, u.22, and uc27 and an early protein ICP8 play a regulatory role in









herpes virus y genes. But a47 has not shown any effect on y gene regulation. Since these

are structural proteins, they may act as targets for the immune response. The ca, P3 or y

gene transcriptional control can be considered a "nested set" situation since all three

genes require the TATA box and both the ca gene and the P3 gene require an additional

distal signal and only the ca gene requires an upstream TAATGART motif.1

Herpes Simplex Latency

Herpes simplex virus is an alpha virus, which is able to establish latency in the

sensory ganglions of the nerves that innervate the primary infected site. The latency

associated transcriptional unit (LAT) remains active during latency. It has been shown

that infected mouse ganglia cells can either express LAT or HSV antigen, but not both. It

was suggested that LAT could be down-regulating an acute transcription.23 The Latency

associated transcript is the only region of the herpes genome that is active during the

latency of the virus. The LAT gives two stable transcripts of 2.3 and 1.8 kb. Since the last

750 bases of LAT are known to be complementary to the 3' terminus of ICPO mRNA, it

has been hypothesized that LAT may affect viral replication by limiting the expression of

immediate early gene products. Furthermore, the 5' terminus of LAT was shown to

facilitate HSV reactivation. It has been hypothesized that the LAT has a RNA specific

ribozyme effect. This hypothesis was built up upon the facts that the both LAT transcript

and ribozyme are restricted in the nucleus and also both do not encode any proteins. It

was also found that the LAT shares other features with the ribozyme; for example, they

both have a unique stable structure and both presence in lariat and nonlinear

confirmation. Further, it was hypothesized that the LAT ribozyme inhibits the required

synthesis factor for viral reactivation.29 A study done in 1997 by Devi-Rao et al. on rabbit









eyes showed that a productive genome replication could occur in the corneas of

reactivating rabbits with LAT+ or LAT viral infections. But a greater number of viruses

were observed with LAT+ infection compared to the LAT infection.10 Further, it was

identified that two cAMP response elements in latency associated transcripts were

identified at -43 to -36 and the other at -85 to -78, and those elements were proposed to

trigger reactivation via a second messenger pathway involving cAMP. It was suggested

that this type of mechanism may be capable of translating stress signals from the cell to

the latent viral genome.4

Although the cell culture is a useful system for studying the virus, it does not

simulate the natural encounter of the virus, where the virus encounters different cell

types. Thus some studies have developed a reporter virus to examine the cell tropism of

Herpes simplex virus LAT expression in the sensory neurons. This system has enabled

researchers to understand the mechanism of the establishment of the latent infection and

the mechanism of reactivation. In such cases researches have observed a lower number of

cells express LAT compared to the total number of infected cells.3

Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Exerts Immunity and Affects Cellular Protein
Synthesis

The herpes simplex virus exerts both cell mediated and specific humoral

immunities in the host. The damage such as keratitis is caused more by the cell mediated

immune damage than by the infection itself. 13 Like other viruses, the herpes simplex

virus infection affects cellular protein synthesis. It was shown a marked general decrease

in transcript abundance during the virus infection with a few exceptions such as a limited

number of stress response genes and cellular transcriptional regulatory genes. Increased

expression of ISG 54K E2, JUNC, N-SHC, STATS, and TAP transcripts can be given as









an example of a major effect on a limited number of stress response and regulatory genes.

It was observed that the UL54 (oc27) protein plays a major role in the shutoff of the

cellular proteins and is directly involved in a decline of host mRNA abundance. The

US12 protein reduces the level of MHC (major histocompatibility complex) and also

contributes to its primary function in the MHC class I pathway.44 Further, it was known

that the herpes simplex virus affects cellular transcription during its latency. Latency

induced transcript and host functions are known to contribute to this repression. Some

studies were carried out to determine the contributory factors that maintain HSV

latency.27 It was suggested that a local immune response might contribute to the

maintenance of latent infection because of the presence of infiltrating immune cells and

cytokines in the latently-infected ganglia. There is evidence suggesting that neuronal

functions help maintain latency. Several genes in this category code for the

neurotransmitter receptors, such as Gprclg, Chrm and Gabbr, voltage-gated ion

channels, such as KcncI and Kcnab. There are proteins known to be involved in neurite

extension, axonal elongation, and cell matrix interactions such as Prss 12, UIkl,

CO115al, Adam23, and n-chimerin, and proteins involved in catabolic functions, such as

Man2bl, Ctsd, Usp20, Ubelx, and Acox2. All of these findings show that both viral and

host cell functions contribute to the maintenance of latency.27

Treatment of Herpes Simplex Virus

There are several successful antiviral agents that have been developed over the past

forty years. A number of factors such as the immune state of the individual, the site of

infection, and the primary or secondary nature of the infection are considered when

selecting treatment for herpes simplex virus infections. There are several diagnostic









methods to identify the HSV infection, but the isolation of herpes simplex virus in tissue

culture is the most common and reliable. The antiviral agents, Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, or

Famciclovir, are usually given to healthy individuals for 7-10 days during the primary

infection. In current practice, the individuals who have frequent recurrences are treated

with daily suppressive therapy. Other antiviral agents, including Trifluridine, Vidarabine,

Foscarnet, Cidofovir and Docosanol are also used in herpes simplex virus treatment.

Resiquimod is a topical immune modifier that is currently undergoing clinical trials and

is known as an emerging therapy to delay recurrences.36 Clinical studies have revealed an

emergence of drug resistance in approximately 0.3% of immunocompetent hosts and 4 to

7% in immunocompromised patients with the use of Acyclovir, penciclovir and their pro-

drugs for two decades. Furthermore, it was observed that the prevalence of Acyclovir-

resistant HSV is higher in severely immunocompromised patients than in

immunocompetent patients.2'13'43 It was reported that Acyclovir resistance occurs mainly

due to mutations in thymidine kinase mutations and less frequently due to mutations in

viral DNA polymerase.9'25'26'34 It was identified that these mutations resulted in decreased

or absent HSV thymidine kinase production, altered the affinity of the thymidine kinase

for acyclovir-triphosphate, or altered the affinity of the HSV DNA polymerase for

acyclovir-triphosphate.9'37

Vaccine

Potential goals for HSV vaccination are prevention or decrease in the severity of

the disease, protection of the sensory ganglia from latent infection, and prevention of

recurrences in latently-infected individuals.9

Both cell mediated and humoral immune systems are known to act as protective

immunities against HSV. It has been shown that immunization with DNA can induce









both humoral and cell mediated immunity whereas immunization with purified protein

induces only a CD4+ response but not CD8+ or innate response.32 Reinfection by HSV 2

in the genital tract is uncommon and this was suggested to be due to the cell mediated

immunity by the primary infection. Furthermore, it was shown that antigen specific

memory T cells in the genital tract provide a high level of protective immunity in the

absence of a humoral immunity. The effectiveness of antibodies in protecting against

neuronal spread is well-proven in animal studies. As for the prevention or the control of

latency in cases of the herpes simplex virus, there have been several studies conducted to

develop different vaccines, such as plasma DNA vaccines, vaccines with HSV

glycoprotein subunits, replication deficient subunits vaccines, and recombinant virus

vector vaccines.32

Herpes simplex virus type one is known to consist of an envelope that carries seven

known antigenically distinct glycoproteins that are named gB, gC, gD, gE, gG, gI, gH, gJ,

gK, gL, and gM. These glycoproteins are known to be inducers and targets for the

humoral and cell mediated response of the host.35 Herpes simplex virus glycoproteins are

known to be the most favorable targets for a vaccine as they are highly immunogenic and

induce neutralizing antibodies. Among them, glycoprotein B (gB) and/or glycoprotein D

(gD) are preferred not only because they induce neutralizing antibodies, but also because

they are the most abundant herpes simplex virus glycoproteins. Previously, it was

suggested that the subunit vaccine using a mixture of recombinant glycoproteins is more

efficient than a vaccine containing single recombinant alone.36

The DNA vaccines are typically composed of bacterially-derived plasmid DNA

carrying eukaryotic gene regulatory elements that can express the specific antigens.









DNA vaccines are safer than the live attenuated vaccines, and are also capable of

generating cell-mediated responses in the absence of any adjutants. Unlike subunit

vaccines, DNA vaccines can be developed easily as multivalent vaccines because DNA

vaccines can simply mix the plasmids that code for different antigens without affecting

other components of multivalent vaccines. Further, studies done in animal models have

shown that vaccines that have both proteins, glycoprotein B and glycoprotein D, provide

better protection from the immune response than by vaccines that carry only one protein.

Furthermore, it was shown that a plasmid coding for both gB2 and gD2 external domains

as a chimeric protein has a better efficiency than a combination of both.15 An effective

herpes simplex virus vaccine would most likely need to elicit both cell-mediated and

humoral immunity in order to achieve a high level of immunity.32 Some studies have

demonstrated that mice immunized with a DNA cocktail produce higher level of IL-12

and IFN-y than mice immunized with a protein cocktail. Furthermore, it was observed

that DNA vaccinated mice showed faster viral clearance, decreased intraocular viral

titers, and increased IFN- y and IL12 in comparison to the protein vaccinated mice

36
group.

Construction of a herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 bacterial artificial

chromosomes (BAC) has been demonstrated. In addition to delivery of nonreplicating

viral genomes, BAC could also be used to deliver the genome of a replicating virus for

live virus immunization. However certain disadvantages, such as safety concerns and

potential virus latency and persistence have hindered the development of a vaccine with

BAC.16 Immunity caused by purified protein vaccine is achieved by inducing antibody

production and CD4+ T cell response but not CD8+ major histocompatibility complex









(MHC)-I- restricted CTL or innate response. In contrast, some other studies using HSV

DNA encoding of the influenza virus nucleoprotein (NP) were shown to induce high

titers of neutralizing antibody against the NP. Thus, immunization with DNA induces a

more complete immune response compared to protein vaccines.36

It was demonstrated that intravaginal inoculation of HSV 2 could elicit immunity

that can eliminate virus and provide a high level of protection against the spread of the

virus via sensory ganglion. Some studies were carried out to find out the action of

intranasal inoculation of attenuated HSV 2 in eliciting protecting immunity against

genital herpes infection and spread via ganglion. It was demonstrated that comparable

immunity could be elicited by the intranasal inoculation compared to the intravaginal

inoculation and it was suggested that this immunity is mostly due to the humoral

immunity.32

Herpes Simplex Virus and Gene Therapy

Herpes simplex virus has been successfully used as a vector in gene therapy.21

They are large DNA viruses with the potential to accommodate large or multiple

transgene cassettes. HSV 1 is preferred because it establishes latency in neurons. Latency

is a state in which viral genome persists in the host as intranuclear episomal elements.

It has been demonstrated that herpes simplex virus growth can be inhibited by the

Rnase P ribozyme.45 Ribozymes are RNA enzymes that can specifically cleave a RNA

sequence of choice. These demonstrate a catalytic and irreversible cleavage of the target

RNA. It has been observed that both hammerhead and hairpin ribozymes could inhibit

viral replication.45









Virus and RNA Interference

RNA Interference

Double-stranded RNA has been shown to silence gene expression in a wide variety

of organisms.14 This silencing can happen at post-transcriptional or transcriptional levels.

Hence this mechanism is divided into two categories: post-transcriptional gene silencing

(PTGS) and transcriptional gene silencing (TGS). The cells do not impede their own

gene expression. Therefore an RNA trigger for gene silencing has to be recognized as

foreign to the cells. The double-stranded nature of a silencing RNA is considered one

potential character to be recognized as foreign to the cells. PTGS acts by decreasing the

half-life of RNA. Therefore, the naturally stable RNAs are dramatically affected

compared to the RNAs that are rapidly synthesized and degraded. It was hypothesized

that a decrease in mRNA might activate the RNA production that restores the expression

level. Several models were hypothesized showing how the RNA involved in PTGS can

trigger chromosome modification.19 The long double- stranded RNA molecules used for

RNA interference haven't shown success in gene silencing in vertebrates because long-

double stranded RNA activates the vertebrate interferon response.12 It was shown that the

interfering RNAs (RNAis) identified in plants are initially cleaved into small interfering

RNAs (siRNAs), which are -21 nt long double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecules

having 2 nt 3' overhangs. This reaction is mediated by a cytoplasmic Rnase III family

enzyme called dicer and these double-stranded RNA molecules are termed small

interfering RNAs (siRNAs). One strand of this siRNA duplex is incorporated into the

RNA induced silencing complex (RISC), a large protein complex. The RNA guides the

complex to the homologous mRNA molecule and then cleaves the target mRNA. Finally,

the RISC will be released and the cleaved RNA will be degraded. The synthetic siRNAs









have been discovered and shown to be effective in RNA silencing. A synthetic siRNA

has only a 19 nt long double-stranded region, which won't activate the interferon

system.13

Small interference RNAs (siRNAs), 21-23 nucleotide long double-stranded RNA

molecules could specifically cleave targets mRNAs. The siRNA cleavage action is not

affected by the secondary structure of mRNA and the efficiency of siRNA is determined

by the siRNA specific properties. This property is in contrast with the antisense, where

silencing is dependent on mRNA properties such as target site accessibility, which is

determined by local mRNA confirmation. Some studies carried out by Elbashir et. al

have come up with selection criteria for the design of siRNA sequences as follows. They

have shown that the siRNA should be 21 nt long, and the sequence should preferably be

50 to 100 nt downstream of the start codone. The selected sequence site should not be in

untranslated regions. The selected sequence should carry 5'-AA (N19) UU, where N is

any nucleotide in the mRNA sequence. Further, they recommended performing a blast

search of a respective organism to ensure a specificity of selected siRNA sequences on

the cleavage of the target sequence.18 Recent studies done by A Reynold et. al were able

to publish eight characteristics associated with siRNA functionality, such as low G/C

content, an absence of inverted repeats, proper internal stability at the sense strand 3'-

terminus, and base preferences at positions 3, 10, 13 and 19 of the sense strand. It was

shown that there was an improved efficiency of siRNA that were designed according to

the above criteria.39

MicroRNAs (miRNA) are encoded within the eukaryotic genome as short hairpin

RNA structures. It was proposed that a long hairpin structure (priMRNA) is cleaved by









an enzyme termed RNase III or Dorsha, into -70 nt long intermediates termed pre-

mRNAs. These pre-mRNAs are processed by the dicer into -21 nt molecules termed

miRNAs which specifically block the translation rather than degrading the mRNA. In

contrast to siRNA molecules, microRNA molecules have one or two mismatches in the

stem while siRNAs are perfectly double-stranded. It was shown that miRNA can function

as siRNA to degrade mRNA when they encounter a perfect mRNA target. Similarly,

siRNA was shown to function as miRNA, thus blocking the translation of target mRNA

when there are few mismatches between the siRNA and the target mRNA.14

Synthetic siRNAs are expensive and transfection is not efficient in all cell types of

interest. The effects of siRNA won't last long due to the degradation and dilution of

siRNA in the subsequent cell replication. Several groups have developed short hairpin

RNAs that are structurally analogous to pre-mRNA hairpin intermediates, using

promoters that depend on the RNA polymerase III.13

In addition to the reported success of siRNAs in cancer research, plant and gene

studies, siRNAs have also shown effectiveness in reducing the replication of certain

viruses such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, Human papilloma virus and

Poliovirus.5,7,8,20,24,31,38

Off-Target Effect of siRNA

It was observed that siRNA exerts non-specific effects called off-target effects.

These effects might be due to a siRNA effect or miRNA effect of the oligonucleotide

molecules on the off-target mRNAs. However, some studies have shown that siRNA

molecules don't activate the IFN response, which is known to be activated by long

double-stranded RNA molecules in the cells.40









In contrast, some studies were able to demonstrate that siRNA-mediated gene

silencing has sequence specificity and does not induce detectable secondary changes in

the global gene expression pattern.12

Several possible nonspecific effects such as cross-hybridization and degradation of

nonspecific mRNA, aptamer effects due to the binding with cellular proteins in a

sequence specific manner, interference in translation by miRNA effect, and induction of

dsRNA response were identified as potential ways to, exert nonspecific effects of siRNA.

It was shown that siRNA is highly specific for targeted gene knockdown by microarray

analysis.41 In contrast, it was demonstrated that siRNA can exert its nonspecific effect by

cross-hybridization.41














CHAPTER 3
MATERIALS AND METHODS

Cell Culture

The effect of siRNA on the replication of HSV 1 and HSV 2 was measured using

cell cultures. Rabbit skin cells were grown in the minimum essential medium

supplemented with 5% calf serum, 100 units/ml penicillin, and 100 [tg/ml streptomycin.

HeLa cells were grown in the minimum essential medium supplemented with 10% fetal

bovine serum 100 units/ml of penicillin, and 100 [tg/ml of streptomycin. During

transfections the cells were grown in the same type of medium without antibiotics. Cells

were incubated in a 5% CO2 humidified incubator at 370C. Cell passages were carried

out regularly and cells were not maintained beyond 30 passages after thawing the stock

culture.

Assessment of transfection efficiency to determine the optimal siRNA

concentration was done using Lab-Tek II Chamber slides. Confluent 250 ml (75 cm2)

flasks were trypsinized, cell suspensions were diluted 1:10, and 125 [l of aliquots were

transferred into each chamber.

All the experiments were carried out in 35 mm cell culture dishes. One day before

siRNA transfection, the confluent cells grown in 250 ml (75 cm2) cell culture flasks were

trypsinized with 5 ml of trypsin. After adding 10 ml of antibiotics free medium to the

trypsinized sample the cells were centrifuged at 2000 x g for 5 minutes. The cell pellet

was resuspended in 16 ml of antibiotics free medium. 500 ld of cell suspensions were









transferred into the dishes that contained 2.5 ml of antibiotic free medium. The

experiments carried out to assay the plaque forming units in the same dishes were seeded

with the cells in 1:14 dilution to achieve 100 % of confluency at the time of infection.

The plaque assays were carried out in 24 well plates. One day before the infection,

2 ml of medium were added to the dishes. Confluent cells grown in 250 ml (75 cm2) cell

culture flasks were trypsinized with 5 ml of trypsin. Cell suspension was diluted into 1:16

and about 330 [tl (1 ml into three wells) of cell suspensions were added to each well.

Cell proliferation assays were carried out in 96 well plates. Confluent cells grown

in 250 ml (75 cm2) cell culture flasks were trypsinized with 5 ml of trypsin. Cell

suspension was diluted into 1:66 and 100 [tl was added to each well.

Virus Stock

Initial virus stock was obtained by large-scale growth of the HG52 strain of

HSV 2. Two sub-confluent 75 cm2 flasks were infected with HSV 2 (HG52). These

infections were carried out in multiplicity of infection (MOI) of 0.001 in infecting

inoculums of 7 ml. Incubation for one hour at 370C was carried out to allow virus

adsorption. Following incubation, 25 ml of supplemented media was added. At three days

post- infection, the harvested infected cells were transferred to 250 ml SorvallTM bottles.

Virus pellets were obtained by spinning the bottles at 10,000 rpm for 40 minutes at 40C.

The pellet was resuspended in 2 ml of medium. The stock was frozen and thawed once

and was vortexed vigorously. The stocks were stored at -700C in 200 [tl aliquots. One

aliquot was titrated to determine the virus titer of the stock.









Virus Assay

Viruses were grown in 35 mm dishes in different MOI with different treatment

conditions to detect the effect of siRNA on HSV replication (virus burst) in rabbit skin

cells or in HeLa cells. These infections were performed on the third day after seeding or

24 hours post-transfection. The dishes were infected with the appropriate multiplicity of

infection in infecting inoculums of 500 [tl. After the dishes were incubated for 1 hour at

370C to allow the virus to adsorb, 1.5 ml of supplemented medium were added. The

viruses were harvested at the appropriate time periods indicated in the experimental

designs.

Titers of virus yields were determined by plaque assay carried in 24 well plates.

These plates were seeded with rabbit skin cells as indicated in the cell culture procedure.

On the following day, virus infections were carried out in different dilutions. All the

titrations were done in triplicates.

Some experiments to detect the plaque forming units were performed in 35 mm

dishes. These experiments followed a similar protocol with a few exceptions. Before

adding 2 ml of the supplement medium, the infecting inoculums were removed. Three

days post-infection the dishes with infected cells were stained using methylene blue and

the number of plaques were counted.

Design of siRNA

Gene sequences of HSV 1 and HSV 2 were obtained from NCBI web site with

accession NC 001798 for HSV 2 and accession NC 001806 for HSV 1. The Ambion

web tool (http://www.ambion.com/techlib/tb/tb_506.html) was used to detect the possible

target sites and siRNA sense and antisense sequences. HSV 2 and HSV 1 sequences were










aligned using the NCBI blast "align two sequences (bl2seq)" web tool to identify the

homologues gene sequences. The best possible target sites were determined by

considering the published criteria. 17,8 Several homologous target sites for siRNA were

identified for HSV 1 and HSV 2. Target sites and siRNA sequences for sense and

siRNA target sites


Target site #1 at HSV 2 19

Target site #2 at HSV 2 484

Target site #3 at HSV 2 1420

HSV 1 1245

Target site #4 at HSV 2 1562

HSV 1 1387

Target site #5 at HSV 2 2287

HSV 1 2077


aageaagag~aagacgacgac g

aacgac gac gacg6acgacgac

utc aagu aujcg t c c 1t cut ot cc
I11111111111111111 II
aac agc agc tc c tt cat cacc

aarggc tt c ct get gac cage

aagggc tt c t get ga cagc

aac c Cgagct ggcc c cc tg

aacc agaqc ct gcqcccc tq


i'- UC UUC i UUC U CUGCUGC. 'UGC (at ,ins_)


siRNA 4 '-CGA GACGACCGUACACGACUU-3 (Oee) B
5'-UUGCUGCUGCUGClUGCU GCUG-3 (adissue)


RNA 1420 5-CACCAGCUCCUUCAUCUCCUU-' (muse)
UWUGCCUC A GGAAGUAGAGA3" (udisEae)


iiRNA 152 5'.-GGCTUC CU GCUCAC CAGC UU-3' (ense)
5'-UUCCC GAAGGAC GACU GGU C G-' (dtd_)


siRNA 2t2 5'-CU AGAC CUGCGC CCCUGUIU-3' senee)
i"-UUGGUCU C GGAC GC GGG&GAC (Uikeuue)


Figure 1. Designing siRNA molecules. A) siRNA target sites. B) Sense and antisense
sequences of siRNA molecules.


40

505

1441

1266

1583

1408

2308

2098









antisense oligonucleotides are shown in figures lA and 1B respectively. The siRNA

sense and antisense oligonucletides were purchased as 2'-ACE protected RNA from

Dharmacon Research (Lafayette, Colorado).

HSV 2 sequence is shown above and HSV 1 sequence is shown below. The number

indicates the site of the nucleotide at the ICP4 gene.

Deprotection of siRNA

The tubes containing protected oligonucleotides were centrifuged and 400 [tl of 2'-

deprotection buffer (100 mM acetic acid) were added. RNA pellets were redissolved by

pipetting back and forth. Adequate amounts of RNA oligonucleotides in a deprotection

buffer were transferred into a separate tube and the remaining were stored at 700C. The

samples were vortexed for 10 seconds, spun for 10 seconds, and incubated at 600C for 30

minutes. Samples were dried using a SpeedVac and resuspended in RNase free water to

make 50 [LM oligonucleotides samples.

Annealing of siRNA

Equal amounts of sense and antisense RNA were mixed together in IX siRNA

annealing buffer, (6 mM HEPES pH 7.4, 20 mM potassium acetate, 0.4 mM magnesium

acetate), and were mixed properly by vortexing. The samples were first denatured by

incubating them for 3 minutes at 900C, and then incubated for 1 hour at 370C. The

annealed samples were stored at -200C until transfection.

Labeling of siRNA

Cy3 labeled siRNA (SilencerTM siRNA labeling kit- Cy3 from Ambion) was used to

detect the optimal condition for the siRNA transfection. 100 [tl of reconstitution solution

was added to the labeling reagent and mixed well. The labeling reaction was assembled









according to the manufacturer's protocol and incubated for 37C for 1 hour. Following

ethanol precipitation, the RNA pellet was resuspended in nuclease free water.

Transfection of siRNA

Cells were seeded one day before the transfection as indicated in cell culture

methods. Fifteen [tl of 20 [LM siRNA duplex was mixed with 250 [Ll of Opti-Mem. In a

separate tube, 15 [Ll of Oligofectamine was mixed with 60 [tl of Opti-Mem and incubated

at room temperature for 10 minutes. The two solutions were combined and incubated for

25 minutes at room temperature. The final volume of 500 [tl was obtained by adding 160

[[l of fresh Opti-Mem. Finally, without replacing the growth medium, 500 [tl of liposome

complex was added to each dish and gently mixed by brief rocking.

RNA Extraction

HSV 2 (HG52) were grown in 35 mm dishes as indicated before. The medium was

poured off and 1 ml of TriZol reagent was added to each dish. The samples were

homogenized by passing the cell lysate several times through the pipette. Following

incubation for five minutes at 300C, 0.2 ml of chloroform was added. Following a

vigorous shaking of the tubes by hand, the samples were incubated for 2 to 3 minutes at

15 to 300C. Samples were centrifuged at 12000 x g for 10 minutes. The aqueous phase

was transferred into tubes and RNA precipitation was performed by mixing with 0.5 ml

isopropyl alcohol, incubating for 10 minutes at 15 to 300C, and spinning at 12000 x g for

10 minutes at 2 to 8 C. The RNA pellet was washed by adding 1 ml of 75% ethanol,

vortexing, and spinning the samples at 7500 x g for 5 minutes at 2 to 80C. The RNA

pellets were then air-dried and were redissolved in RNase free water.









DNA was removed from the samples of RNA by DNase treatment (DNA-freeTM,

by Ambion). Briefly, samples were diluted to 100 |tg RNA/ml. Then 0.1 volume of 10X

DNase I buffer, and 2-3 [tl DNase I were added to the samples which were then incubated

for 1 hour at 37C. Five [tl of DNase inactivation reagent were added to each of the

samples. Following an incubation of 2 minutes at room temperature, the samples were

centrifuged at 10000 x g for 1 minute. RNA solutions were then transferred to fresh

RNase free tubes.

Reverse transcription was carried out by using the first strand cDNA synthesis kit

by Amersham Biosciences. Briefly, RNA samples were heated to 650C for 10 minutes

and then chilled on ice. The uniform suspension of bulk first-strand cDNA reaction mix

was added according to the manufacturer's protocol. One |jl of DTT solution, and 1 [[l of

pd (N)6 primer (0.2 [tg) were then added to the heat-denatured RNA. Samples were

mixed properly by pipetting up and down several times and then incubated for 1 hour at

370C.

Real time PCR primers and probes were purchased from Applied Biosystems

using assay by design. As an endogenous control, eukaryotic 18s rRNA was purchased

from Applied Biosystems.

Cell Proliferation Assay

On day one 96 well plates were seeded with rabbit skin cells as indicated in cell

culture methods. The serum starvation was performed on day two, after washing the

wells with PBS three times. Following another washing with PBS, the treatment medium

was added to the wells on day three. Cell proliferation was assayed by using CellTiter 96






25


Aqueous One Solution cell proliferation reagent (Promega, Madison, WI). Twenty [tl

were added to each well and the plate was incubated for 1 to 4 hours in 5% C02 at 370C.














CHAPTER 4
RESULTS

Assessment of Optimal siRNA Concentration for Transfection

This experiment was designed to determine the optimal siRNA concentration for

transfection in HeLa cells. In this study an optimal efficient range for the siRNA

transfection was observed to be 100 nM to 200 nM. (Figure 2) Approximately 80%

transfections efficiency was observed at the concentrations of 100 nM. This data was

comparable to published data.3 Further transfections were performed in 100 nM to 150

nM siRNA concentrations.

Evaluation of Effect of Five siRNA on HSV-2 Replication in Rabbit Skin Cells

Five siRNA molecules were designed and purchased from Dharmacon (Lafayette,

CO) as indicated in the materials and methods section. The aim of designing five siRNA

molecules targeting one gene was to identify the most efficient siRNA and to identify

siRNA molecules that have the ability to target both HSV 2 and HSV 1 genes. From here

onwards, the siRNA molecules will be termed as siRNA 19, siRNA 484, siRNA 1420,

siRNA 1562 and siRNA 2287, where these siRNA molecules target the ICP4 mRNA

sequence beginning at nucleotides 19 (siRNA 19), 484 (siRNA 484), 1420 (siRNA

1420), 1562 (siRNA 1562), and 2287 (siRNA 2287) in ICP4 gene of HSV 2. The

alignment of ICP4 genes of HSV 2 and HSV 1 revealed that siRNA 1420 and siRNA

1562 and siRNA 2287 should target both HSV 1 and HSV 2 ICP4 genes since the two

genes have identical nucleotide sequences at the 22 nucleotides down stream of these

positions. The siRNA 1420 has one mismatch with the HSV 1 ICP4 gene. The other two









siRNA molecules, siRNA 19 and siRNA 484 did not share any sequence similarity

between HSV 1 ICP4 gene and HSV 2 ICP4 gene.

This experiment was done in quadruplicates. The cells were seeded in 35mm dishes

as indicated in materials and methods on day one of the experiment. The following day,

the cells were transfected with siRNA at the concentration of 100 nM. Four dishes in one

group were treated with Oligofectamine only and were termed the mock group, four

dishes in another group treated with Oligofectamine and scramble siRNA, and were

termed the scramble group. The remaining four dishes were treated with Oligofectamine

and specific siRNA 19, and were termed the siRNA 19 group. Dishes were infected at a

low MOI of 0.001 two days after transfection with siRNA, and virus was harvested from

the infected cells at 12 hours post-infection. The plaque assay results are shown in Figure

3 and Tablel. The difference between virus yields observed in mock transfected group

and scramble siRNA transfected group were not statistically significant. However, the

virus yields from cells transfected with the five different siRNA molecules revealed a

statistically significant reduction in virus replication compared to the scrambled siRNA

treated control group. Among all five siRNA treated groups, cells transfected with the

siRNA 19 had highest percent reduction (81.7%). Furthermore, the siRNA 484, siRNA

1420, siRNA 1562, and siRNA 2287 showed percent reductions of 45%, 63%, 77.3%,

and 68%, respectively, compared to the scramble siRNA control group. These data imply

that the five siRNA groups have a specific effect on the reduction of virus replication.

Furthermore, it revealed that siRNA 19 was the most effective siRNA. Thus, siRNA 19

was used extensively during further experimental investigations.









Identification of the Best Cell Culture Model to Assess the Effect of siRNA on
Reduction of Virus Replication

Our previous experiments showed that siRNA 19 was most effective in reducing

production HSV 2 virus in rabbit skin cells. We also wanted to identify the most suitable

cell culture model for further experiments. Using the experimental protocol detailed

above, a similar experiment was carried out using cultures of HeLa human cervical

carcinoma cells to measure the effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 replication. As shown in

Figure 4, siRNA 19 significantly reduced replication of HSV 2 in HeLa cells by about

72%. This result suggests that the reduction of HSV 2 replication in HeLa cells is almost

as effective as previously shown using HSV 2 replication in rabbit skin cells. As rabbit

skin cells give a better monolayer for plaque assays, further experiments were carried out

in rabbit skin cell cultures.

Effect of siRNA on Plaque Formation

This experiment was carried out to observe the effect of siRNA on the plaque

formation of HSV 2 in rabbit skin cells. As shown in Figure 5 and Table 3, a 49%

reduction in plaque formation of HSV 2 was exerted by siRNA.

Evaluation of Effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 Replication with Different Multiplicities
of Infection and Harvested at Different Time Points

Further experiments were carried out by changing the MOI and harvesting virus at

different time points. The aim of these experiments was to assess if siRNA 19 was

effective in the reduction of virus replication even in higher multiplicity of infections at

longer time periods. As shown in Figure 6, it was observed that siRNA 19 was effective

in the reduction of HSV 2 replication even in high MOI. These experiments yielded a

78% reduction of virus replication comparing to the mock transfected group and 79%

reduction of virus replication compared to the cells treated with scrambled siRNA. These









percent reduction in virus plaque forming units were as high as previously shown values

for low MOI. In order to detect the efficiency of siRNA over a longer time period, a

similar experiment was carried out with an MOI of 0.01 and virus harvested at 36 hours

post-infection. This experiment was expected to show a greater reduction of virus yields

with longer harvesting times periods because more cycles of virus replication could

occur. As shown in Figure 7 and Table, the number of plaque forming units was reduced

about 93% compared with the scramble group. This is the highest reduction in virus yield

observed for all the different experimental conditions. This outcome suggests that siRNA

effect will last at least for 72 hours post-transfection. Unexpectedly, there was a

significantly low yield of virus in the mock transfected group compared to the scramble

transfected group. Since the seeding and the infection were all carried out at the same

time with the same sample of cell suspensions and virus suspensions, this finding could

not be explained by the seeding or infection bias. Considering other possibilities, it was

suggested that this effect could be due to poor adsorption of the virus. The stacking of the

dishes during incubation might have interfered with even virus adsorption. To prevent

this happening in future experiments, the dishes were briefly rocked several times during

the 1 hour incubation. This experiment was further extended by harvesting virus at 72

hours (96 post-transfection) and 96 hours (120-hours post-transfection) to observe the

lasting effect of siRNA over a longer duration. As shown in Figures 8 and 9, virus yields

were reduced at both time points by siRNA 19 compared to the scramble group, but the

decreases in virus production were not statistically significant (shown in Tables 5 and 6).









Comparison of Growth of HSV 2 Virus Between Mock Transfected Group,
Scramble siRNA Transfected Group and siRNA 19 Transfected Group

The following experiment was carried out with a high MOI of 3, and virus was

harvested at 4 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours. Because of the high MOI, we

expected there would be a single burst of virus at the 12 hour post-infection with no

additional increase in virus at the subsequent time points (24 and 48 hours). This

experiment followed a similar protocol as described earlier. As shown in Figure 11, at 4

hours post-infection, reductions in virus yield were similar for all three treatment groups.

This suggests that the different reductions in virus yields in cells treated with

Oligofectamine only, scrambled siRNA or siRNA 19 observed in previous experiments

were not due to different levels of HSV adsorption. Surprisingly, the virus showed a

delayed viral replication rather than giving a single viral burst at 12 hours post-infection.

Even more surprising was the fact that the virus yields observed in scramble transfected

groups and siRNA 19 transfected groups at 24 hours were lower than the virus yields

observed at 12 hours. However, virus replication resumed after 24 hours, producing

more virus at 48 hours. Statistical analysis of the data (Table 6) revealed a persistent

effect of siRNA on the reduction of HSV 2 replication. However, the reason for the delay

in virus replication has yet to be determined.

Cell Proliferation Assay

In this experiment, cell proliferation was measured in cells grown in three different

conditions: serum free medium; medium with 5% serum; medium with 5% serum and

Oligofectamine; medium with 5% serum, Oligofectamine and scramble siRNA; medium

with 5% serum, Oligofectamine and siRNA 19; and medium with 5% serum,

Oligofectamine and siRNA 1420. The last four conditions represent the mock transfected,






31


the scramble transfected, the siRNA #1 transfected groups and the siRNA #3 transfected

groups that were discussed in previous experiments. Statistical analysis of the data

revealed a significant difference in mock transfected and scramble transfected groups

except at the 24 hour time point. Interestingly, at all time points the differences between

absorbencies of scramble transfected and siRNAs 19 and 1420 transfected groups were

not statistically significant.
















Oligofectamine +50 nM siRNA-transfection efficiency=49.2%








Oligofectamine +100 nM siRNA transfection efficiency=81.7%








Oligofectamine +150 nM siRNA -transfection efficiency=52.8%


Oligofectamine +200 nM siRNA -transfection (


ciency=64.


Oligofectamine +250 nM siRNA -transfection efficiency=44.8%


Figure 2. Optimizing transfection conditions. A) Transfection efficiency of siRNA in
different siRNA concentration. B) Uptake of liposomal complexes in to the
cells in different siRNA concentrations



















:Em


50nM


100nM 150nM 200nM
siRNA concentration


Figure 2. Continued.


350000
300000
250000
200000
150000
100000
50000
0


Mock Scramble siRN \
HSV 2-1!


I.1


siRNA
9 HSV 2-
484
Conditions


siRNA
HSV 2-
1420


Figure 3. The effect of five siRNA molecules on HSV 2 replication at MOI of 0.001 in
rabbit skin cells at 12 hours post-infection.


mHz


250nM


siRN4A
HSV 2-
1562


siRNA
HSV 2-
2287










Table 1. Percent reduction and the P values between siRNAs and scramble
Group Percent P Value siRNA vs.
Reduction Scramble
siRNA 19 81.7% 0.008
siRNA 484 45% 0.048
siRNA 1420 63% 0.051
siRNA 1562 77.3% 0.004
siRNA 2287 68% 0.009


8000
7000 -
7000


5000 -
6000
5000
4000
3000
2000
1000
0


Mock


Scramble
Conditions


siRNA- 19


Figure 4. Effect of siRNA #1 on HSV-2 replication grown in HeLa cells


Table 2. Percentage reduction and P values of results shown in Figure 4
Group % % P Value P Value P Value
Reduction Reduction Mock vs Scramble vs Mock vs
siRNA19 vs. siRNA 19 Scramble SiRNA 19 SiRNA 19
Mock vs.
Scramble
siRNA 19 71.9% 71.31% 0.009 0.947 0.047















. 500
o*
C 400
-a

" 300

1 200
z
100


0


Mock


Scramble


siRNA 19


Conditions



Figure 5. Effect of siRNA on plaque formation of HSV-2


Table 3. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 5
Group % Reduction % Reduction P Value P Value P Value
siRNA 19 vs. Mock siRNA 19 vs. Mock vs. Scramble vs. Mock vs.
Scramble Scramble SiRNA19 siRNA 19

siRNA 19 53% 49% 0.606 0.008 0.000035


1600000
1400000
1200000
1000000
800000
600000
400000
200000
0


Mock


Scramble
Treatment


siRNA 19


Figure 6. Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication at high multiplicity of infection
(MOI of 1) infected cells were harvested at 13 hours post-infection.










Table 4. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 6
Group % % P Value P Value P Value
Reduction Reduction Mock vs. Scramble vs. Mock vs.
siRNA 19 siRNA 19 Scramble SiRNA 19 SiRNA 19
vs. Mock vs.
Scramble
siRNA 19 78% 79% 0.86 0.00024 0.035


600000

500000

400000

300000

200000

100000


0


Mock


Scramble
Conditions


siRNA 19


Figure 7. Effect of siRNA 19 on HSV 2 replication with infection of MOI of 0.01 at 36
hours post-infection


Table 5. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 7
Group % % P Value P Value P Value
Reduction Reduction Mock vs. Scramble vs. Mock vs.
siRNA 19 siRNA 19 Scramble SiRNA 19 SiRNA 19
vs. Mock vs.
Scramble
siRNA 19 89% 92.7% 0.04 0.00000701 0.0000174
































Figure 8. Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication with MOI of 0.01 at 72 hours post-
infection

Table 6. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 8
Group % % P Value P Value P Value
Reduction Reduction Mock vs. Scramble vs. Mock vs.
siRNA 19 siRNA 19 Scramble siRNA 19 siRNA 19
vs. Mock vs.
Scramble
siRNA 19 32% 12.6% 0.18 0.66 0.21


30000000

25000000


20000000

u 15000000
10000000
10000000

5000000


0


Mock


Scramble


siRNA 19


Conditions



Figure 9. Effect of siRNA on HSV 2 replication with MOI of 0.01 at 96 hours post-
infection


2500000 -


2000000 -

1500000 -
L-
1000000 -


500000 -


0
Mock Scramble siRNA 19
Conditions










Table. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 9
Group % % P Value P Value P Value
Reduction Reduction Mock vs. Scramble vs. Mock vs.
siRNA 19 siRNA 19 Scramble siRNA 19 siRNA 19
vs. Mock vs.
Scramble
siRNA 19 55% 13% 0.019 0.62 0.003



9000000-
8000000
7000000 -
6000000
5000000 -
U-
0- 4000000 -
3000000 -
2000000 -
1000000 -
0-
Mock Scramble siRNA 19 siRNA- siRNA mix
1420 1562
Conditions



Figure 10. Effect of siRNA on HSV-1 replication in rabbit skin cells.

Table 8. Percentage reduction and P values of the results shown in figure 10
Group % Reduction % Reduction P Value P Value P Value
siRNAs Mock siRNA vs. Mock vs. Scramble vs. Mock
Scramble Scramble siRNA vs.siRNA
SiRNA 32% 32.9% 0.92 0.09 0.14
19
SiRNA 0.92 0.206 0.23
1420
SiRNA 0.92 0.783 0.768
1562
Mix 0.92 0.087 0.118

































1800000
1600000
1400000
1200000
3 1000000
LL
800000
600000
400000
200000
0


- Mock
Scrambel
- -siRNA


20 30 40
Time post infection


Figure 11. Virus replication assessments. A) Bar graph assessment of virus replication at
different time points. B) Line graph assessment of virus replication at different
time points



Table 9. Percentage reductions and P values of the results shown in figure 11A
Group % Reduction % Reduction P Value P Value P Value
siRNA 19 siRNA 19 Mock Scramble Mock
vs. vs. vs. vs. vs.
Mock Scramble Scramble SiRNA 19 SiRNA 19
4 hours 0.447 0.689 0.58
12 hours 36.8% 42% 0.28 0.022 0.031
24 hours 64% 37% 0.11 0.33 0.004
48 hours 45% 43% 0.86 0.018 0.018


1800000 -
1600000 -
1400000 -
1200000 -
1000000 m Mock
u- 0 Scrambel
S800000 siRNA
EosiRNA
600000 -
400000 -
200000
0
0 4 12 24 48
Time (Hours post infection)












0.230-
0.220-
0.210-
0.200-
0.190-
0.180-
0.170

K


Conditions


0.30 -
0.30C -
0.250
I 0.20 -
a 0.150 -
O 0.100


0.000 ...






Conditions



0.40 -
0.400
0.350 -
0.3C00
0.250 -
o 0.20 -



0.0C00






Conditioim


Figure 12. Cell proliferation assays at different time points post-transfection. A) 24 hours.
B) 48 hours. C) 72 hours.


t






41


Figures 12A, 12B and 12C show the cell proliferation assay data. SF indicates that

the samples are treated with serum free medium, 5% indicates medium with 5% serum,

OF indicates Oligofectamine, C indicates scramble siRNA treatment, 19 indicates siRNA

19 treatment, siRNA 1420 indicates siRNA 1420 treatment.

Table 10. P Values of the data shown in figures 12A, 12B and 12C.
Conditions 24 hours 48 hours 72 hours

Mock vs. Scramble 0.6 0.0000002 0.0000000013
Scramble vs. siRNA 19 0.32 0.18 0.55
Scramble vs. siRNA 1420 0.35 0.03 0.22














CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION

The Importance of New Therapeutic Measures for HSV

Genital herpes is the most prevalent genital ulcer disease worldwide.16 Although

HSV 2 most commonly causes genital ulcers, the frequency of genital ulcer disease

caused by HSV 1 is increasing.28 Antiviral agents such as nucleoside analogs like

Acyclovir and Valacyclovir, guanosine analogs like Penciclovir and Famciclovir,

pyrimidine nucleoside analogs like Trifluridine, and adenine analogs like Vidarabine are

available as treatments for herpes infections.9 Along with the oral antiviral agents, topical

forms of Penciclovir and Acyclovir are used in patients with recurrent herpes labialis, an

ocular formulation of Acyclovir is used for the treatment of ocular herpes, and an

Acyclovir ointment is available for use in genital herpes cases. Although these therapies

reduce the duration of illness and viral shedding they do not alter the frequency of

recurrences. In current practice, the individuals who have frequent recurrences are treated

with daily suppressive therapy, but there is no sustained effect after discontinuation of

treatment. Clinical studies have revealed an emergence of drug resistance in about 0.3%

of immunocompetent hosts and about 4 to 7% in immunocompromised patients with the

use of Acyclovir, Penciclovir and their prodrugs over the last two decades.2 Further, it

was observed that the prevalence of Acyclovir resistant HSV is higher in severely

immunocompromised patients than in immunocompetent patients.2'9'43 It was reported

that Acyclovir resistance is mainly due to thymidine kinase mutations, and less

frequently, due to mutations in viral DNA polymerase.9'26'25'34 These mutations were









identified to result in decreased or absent HSV thymidine kinase production, altered

affinity of the thymidine kinase for Acyclovir-triphosphate, or altered affinity of the HSV

DNA polymerase for acyclovir-triphosphate.9'37 Although the reactivation of Acyclovir-

resistant HSV may still be rare and unrecognized in immunocompetent people, new

therapeutic and preventive strategies for HSV disease are needed to prevent the rise of

drug resistant HSV. Although it has been demonstrated that the utilization of higher doses

of Acyclovir for longer periods of time has improved the outcome of neonatal HSV

disease, morbidity and mortality from neonatal HSV infections remain unacceptably

high.25 As there is an increasing prevalence in immunocompromised population due to

the improvements in life expectancy for the immunocompromised, for example, people in

immunosuppressive therapy with organ transplants and patients with AIDS, the

maintenance of life-long prophylactic treatment to prevent HSV recurrences could

significantly impact the cost of patient care. Secondly, there is a need for a new treatment

strategy to overcome the emergence of drug resistant HSV infection. Since neither of the

available antiviral therapies cures the latent herpes infection there is a significant need for

a new treatment strategy that targets the replication mechanism of the virus at the

transcriptional or post- transcriptional level.

Feasibility of RNA Interference as a Therapeutic Measure in HSV Infection.

siRNAs are typically 21nt double-stranded molecules that specifically cleave

mRNA leading post-transcriptional regulation.17 Although siRNAs are known to be

highly specific it has recently been shown that siRNAs are effective in single mutations

located in the center of molecules, and up to four mutations are required for complete

inactivation.17,10 Spontaneous or drug induced mutations are known to be the major cause

of drug resistance to many viruses. Hence the ability to tolerate one or few mismatches









makes siRNA an appealing strategy for HSV treatment. siRNA molecules could be

delivered either exogenously or endogenously. Exogenous delivery offers the possibility

of designing therapeutic siRNAs for acute HSV infections only when the siRNAs need to

be delivered immediately and should be active only for a short duration. Recent studies

have shown that short hairpin siRNAs can be expressed in plasmid or viral vectors such

as adenoviral and lentiviral. These short hairpin siRNAs were shown to express for

longer durations. This quality of siRNA offers the possibility to chronically express the

therapeutic siRNA in host, which will inhibit the recurrence of herpes infections. siRNAs

have been shown to be effective in decreasing virus production in HIV-111,22,30,33,42

Hepatitis C24, Human papilloma virus31 and Hepatitis B virus.23 Furthermore, it was

shown that short hairpin siRNA expressed in plasmid or virus vectors can exert a

sustained inhibition of viral replication.

How is This Study Designed to Overcome the Prevailing Drawbacks in Current
Treatment Methods?

In order to overcome the antiviral resistance to thymidine kinase and viral

polymerase, we designed and tested siRNA molecules that target an essential immediate

early gene, ICP4. In order to address the possible failure in siRNA treatment due to virus

mutations that could occur in the ICP4 gene, five siRNA molecules were designed and

shown to be effective in the reduction of HSV 2 replication. Statistical analysis of this

data revealed a significant reduction in virus yields in the samples treated with siRNA

molecules. Three siRNA molecules, siRNA 1420, siRNA 1562,and siRNA 2287, were

designed to target the identical gene sequence region observed between HSV 1 and

HSV 2. Here we suggest that these areas of the ICP4 gene carry less of a chance for

mutation. Further, this approach would enable the design of a siRNA that could target









both HSV 1 and HSV 2 viruses. Surprisingly, the results observed in the experiment on

HSV 1 using siRNA 1420, siRNA 1562, and siRNA 2287 did not reveal any

effectiveness on the reduction of HSV 1 replication. However, the same siRNAs had a

promising effect on the reduction of HSV 2 replication. This finding suggests that the

siRNA function might be affected by the secondary structure of target mRNA. This

suggestion contradicts the previous published data that states that siRNA function is not

affected by the secondary structure of mRNA.18 It is also possible that the high MOI used

with the HSV 1 experiment over whelmed the effect of the siRNA. This concept could

be tested by performing the experiment with a low MOI of HSV 1 of 0.001.

Effects shown in HeLa cells of virus replication show a significant reduction on

HSV 2 replication by siRNA 19. This suggests the ability of siRNA 19 to reduce HSV 2

replication in human cells.

In this study we preformed an experiment to test the effect of siRNA on plaque

formation of HSV 2. Usually relatively healthy cells are needed to obtain a monolayer, in

which the plaques can be preformed. Although siRNAs have been reported to have minor

toxicity on the cells (off target effects), our results (Figure 5 and Table 3) suggest that

any nonspecific siRNA effects did not influence the formation of a monolayer. Further

studies shown in Figures 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11 were carried out to detect the siRNA effect on

different MOI harvesting at longer time points (24, 36, 48, and 72, and 96 hours). These

studies revealed a sustained successful effect of siRNA over reduction in virus replication

over at least 72 hours post-transfection. A trend of increased reduction of virus

replication with time was observed until the infection reached 72 hours post- infection or

more. This trend was expected, as HSV 2 is usually known to have continuously rising









virus titers. The reduction in virus yield at the first burst should give rise to an even more

reduced virus yields at late virus bursts. However, there was no effect of siRNA shown

after 72 hours post-infection. Further, it was shown that the difference between mock

transfected, scramble transfected, and siRNA 19 transfected groups observed in 76 hours

post-transfection experiment are not statistically significant. The inability of siRNA to

reduce the virus yield at 72 hours post-infection (i.e., at 96 hours post-transfection) could

be explained by the waning effect of siRNAs at longer durations. The results suggests

that the reducing effect of siRNA in survived cells in the siRNA 19 transfected group

allow a reinfection leading to unopposed virus replication. Since previous literature has

shown a sustained effect in short hair pin siRNA8, in this study we would suggest that

these siRNA should be expressed as short hair pin RNA in a plasmid or in a virus vectors

in which these siRNAs can be expressed longer and have a better effect on the inhibition

of virus replication.

Although the results discussed above support the conclusion that designed siRNA

molecules significantly reduce HSV 2 replication, further experiments were carried out to

exclude other possibilities that could also give rise to low virus yields. It was speculated

that these low yields might be due either to low virus uptake, or due to nonspecific effects

of siRNA. Here we have addressed the low virus adsorption issue by showing an ecliptic

effect of HSV in all three conditions in experiments shown by virus growth curve. We

expected to have a single large virus burst around 12-18 hours post-infection followed by

a plateau state in the growth curve detection experiment carried out with a high (MOI 3)

multiplicity of infection. Surprisingly, it was observed that a delay in virus production in

all three groups and virus titers varied substantially by dipping at 24 hour post-infection









in Scramble transfected and siRNA 19 transfected groups. Previously, it was shown by

S J Su et al that HSV 1 exhibits a substantial variation in virus yield at different time

points. {2688} But they have also shown a continuous rise in HSV 2 infected cells. These

findings were in contrast with the results of Chen j et al, who observed a continuous rise

in virus titer in their growth curve experiments.16 Further, S J Su et al. found that the

cytopathic effect of both HSV 1 and HSV 2 were almost the same in the last stages. But

this study showed a delay in virus replication. This could be due to some effect exerted

by Oligofectamine. It was interesting to observe a similar pattern in both scramble treated

and siRNA 19 treated groups, which showed a fluctuation in virus growth. Since both

siRNA groups showed a similar pattern it was suggested that these results could be due to

a nonspecific effect of siRNA. This finding is in accordance with published data that

show the off-target effect of siRNA.40'41 These nonspecific effects could be affecting

virus growth itself or could be due to a change in the environment of virus growth such as

cell death which causes less viable cells that, in turn, give rise to reduced virus

replication. If the nonspecific effects of scramble treated and specific siRNA treatment

cells are shown to be equal, the scramble group would still be a good control for

analyzing data.

The CellTiter 96 Aqueous one solution cell proliferation assay usually detects

metabolically active cells. In this study we have assessed the metabolically active cells

grown in different treatment groups. It was found that there was a reduced number of

viable cells in all the groups that were treated with Oligofectamine. This finding suggests

that Oligofectamine affects cell growth. Since all the virus yield were compared with

controls containing Oligofectamine, these results would not affect the previous









conclusions of this study. Although the absorbance of siRNA treated groups seems to be

lower compared to scramble treated groups, statistical analysis revealed a non

significance in such a finding. Hence, it can be concluded that the difference in the

number of viable cells in different treatment groups does not affect the virus yields

observed in previous experiments. These findings agree with previous published data

showing that siRNA do not activate the IFN response.12

We began this study with the hypothesis that siRNA molecules can be used to

reduce virus growth by specifically targeting the ICP4 gene. Analysis of data showed that

all five siRNA molecules could be used to reduce the virus growth of HSV 2. However,

analysis also showed that siRNA 1420, siRNA 1562, and siRNA 2287 do not effectively

inhibit the HSV 1 virus replication.

Here we suggest performing a real time PCR, which would asses the quantitative

reduction of the ICP4 mRNA. This study promises the possibility developing siRNA as a

therapeutic measure. Further, we would suggest designing new siRNA molecules using

the latest published criteria that would target ICP4 of both HSV 1 and HSV 2.














CHAPTER 6
CONCLUSION

This study shows a specific reduction of virus replication using siRNA molecules

that target ICP4, an essential immediate early gene of herpes simplex virus type 2. It was

predicted that the siRNA molecule could reduce the virus replication in cell culture

models. All the data shown in this study exhibited a statistically significant reduction in

virus growth. The reduction of virus yields observed in this study shows a maximum

possible reduction of siRNA considering the transfection efficiency and lifetime of

siRNA molecules. The ability to reduce virus growth in higher multiplicity of infections

suggests that the siRNA concentration used in this study would be sufficient to counteract

such a high dose of infection. The inefficiency of siRNA molecules in latter time points

of post-transfection indicates the importance of endogenous expression of siRNA or the

importance of multiple doses of siRNA in therapeutic use. The ability of siRNA

molecules to function well in rabbit skin cells predicts a success in testing these siRNA in

rabbit skin models. Further, the efficiency shown in HeLa cell suggests the feasibility of

using these siRNAs in human culture cell model and also developing this as a therapeutic

strategy to treat herpes infections in humans.

In addition, this study addresses the nonspecific effects of siRNA molecules in the

cell proliferation assay. This data suggests that Oligofectamine and siRNA molecules

exert a nonspecific toxic effect. However, this does not affect the conclusions made

before, because these conclusions were made comparing the virus yields of scramble

group and siRNA group. All these findings strongly suggest that siRNA could be used as






50


a promising therapy in the cure of the latency of herpes infection and also could be used

as a valuable strategy for the treatment of resistant herpes simplex viruses.
















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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Suresha Rajaguru graduated with Bachelor of Medicine degree and a Bachelor of

Surgery degree (MBBS) from University of Colombo in 2001. Before joining the Master

of Science program at the University of Florida in 2003, she worked as a research

assistant with Dr. Denise Cooper at the University of South Florida and with Dr. Leonard

Jarrett at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, Suresha will undergo

residency training in Internal Medicine at Wayne State University, Michigan. After

completion of her residency training she intends to work as a clinical researcher.