The phenomenon of RNA interference (RNAi) sparked a new surge in the area of posttranscriptional gene silencing methodologies and their potential application for HIV-1 gene therapy. A potentially promising strategy is to exploit siRNAs to prevent viral entry at the cell surface by down-regulating essential cell surface HIV-1 coreceptors. In the present studies we targeted the CXCR4 coreceptor for disruption with siRNA to inhibit HIV-1 entry as a first step toward the ultimate goal of translating this to gene therapy for AIDS. A stem-loop hairpin structured anti-CXCR4 siRNA was designed and synthesized in vitro by transcription with T7 polymerase. Down-regulation of the coreceptor was assayed in U373-Magi-CXCR4 cells. FACS analysis showed marked down-regulation of CXCR4 on the cell surface and Western blot analysis confirmed the reduced levels of intracellular synthesis. When challenged with X4-tropic HIV-1 NL4-3, the siRNA-transfected cells exhibited marked viral resistance. Consistent with these results, siRNA-transfected primary lymphocytes also exhibited significant resistance to HIV-1 entry. These proof-of-concept studies demonstrated the efficacy of an siRNA targeted to an essential cellular coreceptor CXCR4 in protecting from HIV-1 infection. Delivery of this siRNA into hematopoietic stem cells via lentiviral vectors may have potential gene therapeutic applications.
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