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Thymidine-phosphorothioate oligonucleotides induce activation and apoptosis of CLL cells independently of CpG motifs or BCL-2 gene interference

Castro JE, Prada CE, Aguillon RA, Kitada S, Fukuda T, Motta M, Wu C, Dicker F, Sun G, Wang JY, Carson DA, Reed JC, Kipps TJ

Leukemia. 2006 Apr 1; 20(4):680-8


We compared antisense phosphorothioate oligonucleotides (PS-ODN) that target BCL-2 such as Genasense (G3139-PS), with other PS-ODN or phosphodiester-ODN (PO-ODN) in their relative capacity to induce apoptosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) B cells in vitro. Surprisingly, we found that thymidine-containing PS-ODN, but not PO-ODN, induced activation and apoptosis of CLL cells independent of BCL-2 antisense sequence or CpG motifs. All tested thimidine-containing PS-ODN, irrespective of their primary sequences, reduced the expression of Bcl-2 protein and increased the levels of the proapoptotic molecules p53, Bid, Bax in CLL cells. Apoptosis induced by thymidine-containing PS-ODN was preceded by cellular activation, could be blocked by the tyrosine-kinase inhibitor imatinib mesylate (Gleevec), and was dependent on ABL kinase. We conclude that thymidine-containing PS-ODN can activate CLL cells and induce apoptosis via a mechanism that is independent of BCL-2 gene interference or CpG motifs.

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