MicroRNA-Mediated Suppression of Oncolytic Adenovirus Replication in Human Liver.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important and ubiquitous regulators of gene expression that can suppress their target genes by translational inhibition as well as mRNA destruction. Cell type-specific miRNA expression patterns have been successfully exploited for targeting the expression of experimental and therapeutic gene constructs, for example to reduce pathogenic effects of cancer virotherapy in normal tissues. In order to avoid liver damage associated with systemic or intrahepatic delivery of oncolytic adenoviruses we have introduced the concept of suppressing adenovirus replication in hepatic cells by inserting target elements for the liver-specific miR122 into the viral genome. Here we show using ex vivo cultured tissue specimens that six perfectly complementary miR122 target sites in the 3' untranslated region of the viral E1A gene are sufficient in the absence of any other genetic modifications to prevent productive replication of serotype 5 adenovirus (Ad5) in normal human liver. This modification did not compromise the replicative capacity of the modified virus in cancer tissue derived from a colon carcinoma liver metastasis or its oncolytic potency in a human lung cancer xenograft mouse model. Unlike wild-type Ad5, the modified virus did not result in increased serum levels of liver enzymes in infected mice. These results provide a strong preclinical proof of concept for the use of miR122 target sites for reducing the risk of liver damage caused by oncolytic adenoviruses, and suggest that ectopic miR122 target elements should be considered as an additional safety measure included in any therapeutic virus or viral vector posing potential hazard to the liver.