Inhibition of HIV-1 replication by ribozymes that show poor activity in vitro.
Crisell P., Thompson S., James W.
Self-cleaving RNAs (ribozymes) can be engineered to cleave target RNAs of choice in a sequence-specific manner (1). Consequently, they could be used to inhibit virus replication or to analyse host gene function in vivo. However, ribozymes that are catalytic in vitro are generally disappointing when analysed in cells unless expressed at high levels relative to their target RNAs (2, 3). Here we provide evidence that this can be overcome by optimizing ribozyme structure using cellular rather than cell-free assays. We show that ribozymes of relatively long flanking complementary regions (FCRs), while poor catalysts in vitro, can produce profound inhibition of HIV replication in cells. By examining a series of ribozymes in which the FCRs vary from 9 to 564 nucleotides, we establish that the optimum length for activity in the cell is > or = 33 nucleotides.