Oligonucleotides that contain locked nucleic acid (LNA) bases have remarkably high affinity for complementary RNA and DNA sequences. This increased affinity may facilitate the recognition of nucleic acid targets inside cells and thus improve our ability to use synthetic oligonucleotides for controlling cellular processes. Here we test the hypothesis that LNAs offer advantages for inhibiting human telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein that is critical for tumor cell proliferation. We observe that LNAs complementary to the telomerase RNA template are potent and selective inhibitors of human telomerase. LNAs can be introduced into cultured tumor cells using cationic lipid, with diffuse uptake throughout the cell. Transfected LNAs effectively inhibited intracellular telomerase activity up to 40 h post-transfection. Shorter LNAs of eight bases in length are also effective inhibitors of human telomerase. The melting temperatures of these LNAs for complementary sequences are superior to those of analogous peptide nucleic acid oligomers, emphasizing the value of LNA bases for high-affinity recognition. These results demonstrate that high-affinity binding by LNAs can be exploited for superior recognition of an intracellular target.
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