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Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is a rare neuromuscular disease caused by a CTG repeat expansion in the DMPK gene that generates toxic RNA with a myriad of downstream alterations in RNA metabolism. A key consequence is the sequestration of alternative splicing regulatory proteins MBNL1/2 by expanded transcripts in the affected tissues. MBNL1/2 depletion interferes with a developmental alternative splicing switch that causes the expression of fetal isoforms in adults. Boosting the endogenous expression of MBNL proteins by inhibiting the natural translational repressors miR-23b and miR-218 has previously been shown to be a promising therapeutic approach. We designed antimiRs against both miRNAs with a phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligonucleotide (PMO) chemistry conjugated to cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) to improve delivery to affected tissues. In DM1 cells, CPP-PMOs significantly increased MBNL1 levels. In some candidates, this was achieved using concentrations less than two orders of magnitude below the median toxic concentration, with up to 5.38-fold better therapeutic window than previous antagomiRs. In HSALR mice, intravenous injections of CPP-PMOs improve molecular, histopathological, and functional phenotypes, without signs of toxicity. Our findings place CPP-PMOs as promising antimiR candidates to overcome the treatment delivery challenge in DM1 therapy.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Ther Nucleic Acids

Publication Date





MBNL proteins, MT: Oligonucleotides: Therapies and Applications, PMO chemistry, alternative splicing, antisense oligonucleotides, biodistribution, cell-penetrating peptides, microRNAs, muscle dysfunction, myotonic dystrophy