Modifying inter-cistronic sequence significantly enhances IRES dependent second gene expression in bicistronic vector: Construction of optimised cassette for gene therapy of familial hypercholesterolemia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Faisal A Al-Allaf
  • Zainularifeen Abduljaleel
  • Mohammad Athar
  • Mohiuddin M Taher
  • Wajahatullah Khan
  • Huseyin Mehmet
  • Mukaddes Colakogullari
  • Sophia Apostolidou
  • Simon Waddington
  • Charles Coutelle
  • Michael Themis
  • Mohammed N Al-Ahdal
  • Futwan A Al-Mohanna
  • Zuhair N Al-Hassnan
  • Abdellatif Bouazzaoui


Internal ribosome entry site (IRES) sequences have become a valuable tool in the construction of gene transfer and therapeutic vectors for multi-cistronic gene expression from a single mRNA transcript. The optimal conditions for effective use of this sequence to construct a functional expression vector are not precisely defined but it is generally assumed that the internal ribosome entry site dependent expression of the second gene in such as cassette is less efficient than the cap-dependent expression of the first gene. Mainly tailoring inter-cistronic sequence significantly enhances IRES dependent second gene expression in bicistronic vector further in construction of optimised cassette for gene therapy of familial hypercholesterolemia. We tailored the size of the inter-cistronic spacer sequence at the 5' region of the internal ribosome entry site sequence using sequential deletions and demonstrated that the expression of the 3' gene can be significantly increased to similar levels as the cap-dependent expression of the 5' gene. Maximum expression efficiency of the downstream gene was obtained when the spacer is composed of 18-141 base pairs. In this case a single mRNA transcriptional unit containing both the first and the second Cistron was detected. Whilst constructs with spacer sequences of 216 bp or longer generate a single transcriptional unit containing only the first Cistron. This suggests that long spacers may affect transcription termination. When the spacer is 188 bp, both transcripts were produced simultaneously in most transfected cells, while a fraction of them expressed only the first but not the second gene. Expression analyses of vectors containing optimised cassettes clearly confirm that efficiency of gene transfer and biological activity of the expressed transgenic proteins in the transduced cells can be achieved. Furthermore, Computational analysis was carried out by molecular dynamics (MD) simulation to determine the most emerges as viable containing specific binding site and bridging of 5' and 3' ends involving direct RNA-RNA contacts and RNA-protein interactions. These results provide a mechanistic basis for translation stimulation and RNA resembling for the synergistic stimulation of cap-dependent translation.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalNon-coding RNA research
Issue number1
Early online date22 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019