TLR8 activation and inhibition by guanosine analogs in RNA: Importance of functional groups and chain length

Tiannan Hu, Scott R. Suter, Madeline M. Mumbleau, Peter A. Beal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Toll-like receptor 8 (TLR8) is an important component of the human innate immune system that recognizes single stranded RNA (ssRNA). Recent X-ray crystal structures of TLR8 bound to ssRNA revealed a previously unrecognized binding site for a 5′-UpG-3′ dinucleotide. Here we use an atomic mutagenesis strategy coupled with a cellular TLR8 activation assay to probe the importance of specific functional groups present on the guanine base in RNA-mediated receptor agonism and antagonism. Results from RNA analogs containing 7-deazaguanosine, 2-aminopurine and inosine confirm the importance of guanine N7, O6 and N2, respectively, in TLR8 activation. Nevertheless, these RNAs each retained TLR8 antagonism activity. RNA containing 7-deaza-8-azainosine (7d8aI) was prepared from a novel phosphoramidite and found to be a weaker TLR8 activator than guanosine-containing RNA. However, 7d8aI-containing RNA also retained TLR8 antagonism activity indicating that removal of multiple TLR8 H-bonding sites on guanine is insufficient for blocking TLR8 antagonism by guanine-containing RNA. We also identified an oligoribonucleotide length dependence on both TLR8 activation and antagonism. These studies extend our understanding of the effects of nucleobase modification on immune stimulation and will inform the design of novel RNA-based therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-83
Number of pages7
JournalBioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Antagonism
  • Guanosine
  • Immune response
  • RNA
  • TLR8

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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