The effect of in vitro exposure to antisense oligonucleotides on macrophage morphology and function

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Ann Brasey
Raouf Igue
Loubna Djemame
Serge Séguin
Paolo Renzi
Nicolay Ferrari
Rosanne Seguin *
(*) Corresponding Author:
Rosanne Seguin |


Antisense oligonucleotides (AON) delivered via inhalation are in drug development for respiratory diseases. In rodents and monkeys, repeated exposure to high doses of inhaled phosphorothioate (PS) AON can lead to microscopic changes in the lungs, including accumulation of alveolar macrophages in the lower airway that have a foamy appearance. The functional consequences that result from this morphological change are unclear as there is controversy whether the vacuoles/inclusion bodies reflect normal clearance of the inhaled AON or are early indicators of lung toxicity. The morphological and functional responses of macrophage to PS AON were characterized in vitro using the comparator drug amiodarone, as a known inducer of foamy macrophages. Morphological changes of increased vacuolization with the presence of lamellated structures were observed in macrophages in response to both amiodarone and AON treatment. Functional responses to the drugs clearly differed with amiodarone treatment leading to apoptosis of cells and cell death, release of proinflammatory mediators IL-1RA, MIP-1α and TNFα, decrease in IP-10, a cytokine shown to be involved in protection against pulmonary fibrosis and altered phagocytosis capacity of the cells. In contrast, AON in concentrations up to 30 μM, had no effect on cell viability or apoptosis, had minimal effects on pro-inflammatory cytokines, increased IP-10 levels and did not alter the phagocytic capacity of the cells. Exposure of macrophages to AON in vitro, led to morphological changes of increased vacuolization, but did not lead to functional consequences which were observed with another vacuolization-inducing drug, suggesting that the in vivo phenotypic changes observed following inhalation of AON may be consistent with a clearance mechanism and not an activation or impairment of macrophages.

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Author Biography

Ann Brasey, Topigen Pharmaceuticals Inc, part of the Pharmaxis group, Montréal, Québec