RNAi Degrades Spike Protein Gene Transcripts of the SARS-CoV-2 for Developing Drugs to Treat of COVID-19

Weiwei Zhang, Linjia Huang, Jumei Huang, Xin Jiang, Xiaohong Ren, Xiaojie Shi, Ling Ye, Shuhui Bian, Jianhe Sun, Yufeng Gao, Zehua Hu, Lintin Guo, Suyan Chen, Jiahao Xu, Jie Wu, Jiwen Zhang, Daxiang Cui, Fangping Dai

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Abstract

COVID-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory SARS-CoV-2. Regardless of the availability of treatment strategies for COVID-19, effective therapy will remain essential. A promising approach to tackle the SARS-CoV-2 could be small interfering (si)RNAs. Here we designed the small hairpin RNA (named as shRNA688) for targeting the prepared 813bp Est of the S protein genes (Delta). The conserved and mutated regions of the S protein genes from the genomes of the SARS-CoV-2 variants in the public database were analyzed. A 813bp fragment encoding the most part of the RBD and partial downstream RBD of the S protein was cloned into the upstream red florescent protein gene (RFP) as a fusing gene in the pCMV-S-Protein RBD-Est-RFP plasmid for expressing a potential target for RNAi. The double stranded of the DNA encoding for shRNA688 was constructed in the downstream human H1 promoter of the plasmid in which CMV promoter drives enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) marker gene expression. These two kinds of the constructed plasmids were co-transfected into HEK293T via Lipofectamine 2000. The degradation of the transcripts of the SARS-CoV-2 S protein fusing gene expressed in the transfected HEK293T treated by RNAi was analyzed by RT-qPCR with a specific probe of the targeted SARS-CoV-2 S protein gene transcripts. Our results showed that shRNA688 targeting the conserved region of the S protein genes could effectively reduce the transcripts of the S protein genes. This study provides a cell model and technical support for the research and development of the broad-spectrum small nucleic acid RNAi drugs against SARS-CoV-2 or the RNAi drugs for the other hazard viruses which cause human diseases.

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