A 21-mer oligodeoxynucleotide complementary to the polyadenylation signal for human hepatitis B virus (HBV) was complexed to a soluble DNA-carrier system that is targetable to hepatocytes via asialoglycoprotein receptors present on those cells. A cell line, HepG2 (2.2.15) that possesses asialoglycoprotein receptors and is permanently transfected with hepatitis B virus (ayw subtype) was exposed to complexed antisense DNA or controls. In the presence of complexed antisense DNA, the concentration of hepatitis B surface antigen in medium was 80% lower than controls after 24 h. Furthermore, during the next 6 days, there was no significant increase in surface antigen concentration in the presence of complexed antisense DNA. The inhibition could be effectively blocked by competition with an excess of free asialoglycoprotein. Total protein synthesis remained unchanged by exposure to complexed antisense sequences under identical conditions. In addition, HBV DNA in the medium and cell layers after 24-h exposure to complexed antisense sequences was 80% lower than in controls. The data indicate that antisense oligonucleotides complexed by a soluble DNA-carrier system can be targeted to cells via asialoglycoprotein receptors resulting in specific inhibition of hepatitis B viral gene expression and replication.
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