Masked antisense: a molecular configuration for discriminating similar RNA targets.
Stocks MR., Rabbitts TH.
Antisense technology has great potential for the control of RNA expression, but there remain few successful applications of the technology. Expressed antisense RNA can effectively down-regulate expression of a gene over long periods, but cannot differentiate partly identical sequences, such as the mRNA of fusion genes or those with point mutants. We have designed a structured form of expressed antisense, which can discriminate between highly similar mRNA molecules. These 'masked' antisense RNAs have most of the antisense sequence sequestered within duplex elements, leaving a short single-stranded region to initiate binding to target RNA. After contacting the correct target, the structured RNA can unravel, releasing the masked antisense region to form a stable duplex with the mRNA. We demonstrate that suitable masked antisense RNA can discriminate between the two forms of BCR-ABL mRNA that result from the Philadelphia chromosomal translocations, as well as discriminating the normal BCR and ABL mRNA.