Fragment-based solid-phase assembly of oligonucleotide conjugates with peptide and polyethylene glycol ligands

Ligand conjugation to oligonucleotides is an attractive strategy for enhancing the therapeutic potential of antisense and siRNA agents by inferring properties such as improved cellular uptake or better pharmacokinetic properties. Disulfide linkages enable dissociation of ligands and oligonucleotides in reducing environments found in endosomal compartments after cellular uptake. Solution-phase fragment coupling procedures for producing oligonucleotide conjugates are often tedious, produce moderate yields and reaction byproducts are frequently difficult to remove. We have developed an improved method for solid-phase coupling of ligands to oligonucleotides via disulfides directly after solid-phase synthesis. A 2′-thiol introduced using a modified nucleotide building block was orthogonally deprotected on the controlled pore glass solid support with N-butylphosphine. Oligolysine peptides and a short monodisperse ethylene glycol chain were successfully coupled to the deprotected thiol. Cleavage from the resin and full removal of oligonucleotide protection groups were achieved using methanolic ammonia. After standard desalting, and without further purification, homogenous conjugates were obtained as demonstrated by HPLC, gel electrophoresis, and mass spectrometry. The attachment of both amphiphilic and cationic ligands proves the versatility of the conjugation procedure. An antisense oligonucleotide conjugate with hexalysine showed pronounced gene silencing in a cell culture tumor model in the absence of a transfection reagent and the corresponding ethylene glycol conjugate resulted in down regulation of the target gene to nearly 50% after naked application.(European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.,Volume 121, 4 October 2016, Pages 132-142.)

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