Time Is a Critical Factor When Evaluating Oligonucleotide Therapeutics in Human Ether-a-Go-Go-Related Gene Assays


Nucleic Acid Ther . 2022 Dec 26. doi: 10.1089/nat.2022.0043


Qu, Y., Kirby, R., Davies, R., Jinat, A., Stabilini, S., Wu, B., Yu, L., Gao, B., & Vargas, H. M.



In accord with International Conference on Harmonization S7B guidelines, an in vitro human ether-ago go related gene (hERG) assay is one component of an integrated risk assessment for delayed ventricular re-polarization. Function of hERG could be affected by direct (acute) mechanisms, or by indirect (chronic) mechanisms. Some approved oligonucleotide therapeutics had submitted hERG data to regulatory agents, which were all collected with the same protocol used for small-molecule testing (incubation time <20 min; acute), however, oligonucleotides have unique mechanisms and time courses of action (indirect). To reframe the hERG testing strategy for silencing RNA (siRNA), an investigation was performed to assess the time course for siRNA-mediated inhibition of hERG function and gene expression. Commercially available siRNAs of hERG were evaluated in a stable hERG-expressed cell line by whole-cell voltage clamp using automated electrophysiology and polymerase chain reaction. In the acute hERG study, no effects were observed after treatment with 100 nM siRNA for 20 min. The chronic effects of 100 nM siRNAs on hERG function were evaluated and recorded over 8-48 h following transfection. At 8 h there was no significant effect, whereas 77% reduction was observed at 48 h. Measurement of hERG mRNA levels demonstrated a 79% and 93% decrease of hERG mRNA at 8 and 48 h, respectively, consistent with inhibition of hERG transcription. The results indicate that an anti-hERG siRNA requires a long exposure time (48 h) in the hERG assay to produce a maximal reduction in hERG current; short exposures (20 min-8 h) had no effect. These findings imply that off-target profiling of novel oligonucleotides could benefit from using hERG protocol with long incubation times to de-risk potential off-target (indirect) effects on the hERG channel. This hERG assay modification may be important to consider if the findings are used to support an integrated nonclinical-clinical risk assessment for QTc (the duration of the QT interval adjusted for heart rate) prolongation.

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