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Oncology - Ophthalmology

Morpholino-Mediated Increase in Soluble Flt-1 Expression Results in Decreased Ocular and Tumor Neovascularization
Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012
Author: Leah A. Owen et al.

by Leah A. Owen, Hironori Uehara, Judd Cahoon, Wei Huang, Jacquelyn Simonis, Balamurali K. Ambati


Angiogenesis is a key process in several ocular disorders and cancers. Soluble Flt-1 is an alternatively spliced form of the Flt-1 gene that retains the ligand-binding domain, but lacks the membrane-spanning and intracellular kinase domains of the full-length membrane bound Flt-1 (mbFlt-1) protein. Thus, sFlt-1 is an endogenous inhibitor of VEGF-A mediated angiogenesis. Synthetic mopholino oligomers directed against splice site targets can modulate splice variant expression. We hypothesize that morpholino-induced upregulation of sFlt-1 will suppress angiogenesis in clinically relevant models of macular degeneration and breast cancer.

Methods and Findings

In vivo morpholino constructs were designed to target murine exon/intron 13 junction of the Flt-1 transcript denoted VEGFR1_MOe13; standard nonspecific morpholino was used as control. After nucleofection of endothelial and breast adenocarcinoma cell lines, total RNA was extracted and real-time RT-PCR performed for sFlt-1 and mbFlt-1. Intravitreal injections of VEGFR1_MOe13 or control were done in a model of laser-induced choroidal neovascularization and intratumoral injections were performed in MBA-MD-231 xenografts in nude mice. VEGFR1_MOe13 elevated sFlt-1 mRNA expression and suppressed mbFlt-1 mRNA expression in vitro in multiple cellular backgrounds (p<0.001). VEGFR1_MOe13 also elevated sFlt/mbFlt-1 ratio in vivo after laser choroidal injury 5.5 fold (p<0.001) and suppressed laser-induced CNV by 50% (p?=?0.0179). This latter effect was reversed by RNAi of sFlt-1, confirming specificity of morpholino activity through up-regulation of sFlt-1. In the xenograft model, VEGFR1_MOe13 regressed tumor volume by 88.9%, increased sFlt-1 mRNA expression, and reduced vascular density by 50% relative to control morpholino treatment (p<0.05).


Morpholino oligomers targeting the VEGFR1 mRNA exon/intron 13 junction promote production of soluble FLT-1 over membrane bound FLT-1, resulting in suppression of lesional volume in laser induced CNV and breast adenocarcinoma. Thus, morpholino manipulation of alternative splicing offers translational potential for therapy of angiogenic disorders.