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    Mutations in the DMD gene are causative for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Antisense oligonucleotide (AON) mediated exon skipping to restore disrupted dystrophin reading frame is a therapeutic approach that allows production of a shorter but functional protein. As DMD causing mutations can affect most of the 79 exons encoding dystrophin, a wide variety of AONs are needed to treat the patient population. Design of AONs is largely guided by trial-and-error, and it is yet unclear what defines the skippability of an exon. Here, we use a library of phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer (PMOs) AONs of similar physical properties to test the skippability of a large number of DMD exons. The DMD transcript is non-sequentially spliced, meaning that certain introns are retained longer in the transcript than downstream introns. We tested whether the relative intron retention time has a significant effect on AON efficiency, and found that targeting an out-of-frame exon flanked at its 5'-end by an intron that is retained in the transcript longer ('slow' intron) leads to overall higher exon skipping efficiency than when the 5'-end flanking intron is 'fast'. Regardless of splicing speed of flanking introns, we find that positioning an AON closer to the 5'-end of the target exon leads to higher exon skipping efficiency opposed to targeting an exons 3'-end. The data enclosed herein can be of use to guide future target selection and preferential AON binding sites for both DMD and other disease amenable by exon skipping therapies.


    Remko Goossens, Nisha Verwey, Yavuz Ariyurek, Fred Schnell, Annemieke Aartsma-Rus. DMD antisense oligonucleotide mediated exon skipping efficiency correlates with flanking intron retention time and target position within the exon. RNA biology. 2023 Jan;20(1):693-702

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    PMID: 37667454

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