One approach to studying the functional role of individual NMDA receptor subunits involves the reduction in the abundance of the protein subunit in neurons. We have pursued a strategy to achieve this goal that involves the use of a small guide RNA which can lead to the destruction of the mRNA for a specific receptor subunit. We designed a small RNA molecule, termed "external guide sequence" (EGS), which binds to the NR1 mRNA and directs the endonuclease RNase P to cleave the target message. This EGS has exquisite specificity and directed the RNase P-dependent cleavage at the targeted location within the NR1 mRNA. To improve the efficiency of this EGS, an in vitro evolution strategy was employed which led to a second generation EGS that was 10 times more potent than the parent molecule. We constructed an expression cassette by flanking the EGS with self-cleaving ribozymes and this permitted generation of the specified EGS RNA sequence from any promoter. Using a recombinant Herpes simplex virus (HSV), we expressed the EGS in neurons and showed the potency of the EGS to reduce NR1 protein within neurons. In an excitotoxicity assay, we showed that expression of the EGS in cortical neurons is neuroprotective. Our results demonstrate the utility of EGSs to reduce the expression of any gene (and potentially any splice variant) in neurons.
- Catalytic RNA
- Glutamate receptor
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience