Impact of mRNA chemistry and manufacturing process on innate immune activation

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Science Advances  24 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 26, eaaz6893
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz6893


Messenger RNA (mRNA) represents an attractive therapeutic modality for potentially a wide range of clinical indications but requires uridine chemistry modification and/or tuning of the production process to prevent activation of cellular innate immune sensors and a concomitant reduction in protein expression. To decipher the relative contributions of these factors on immune activation, here, we compared, in multiple cell and in vivo models, mRNA that encodes human erythropoietin incorporating either canonical uridine or N1-methyl-pseudouridine (1mΨ), synthesized by either a standard process shown to have double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) impurities or a modified process that yields a highly purified mRNA preparation. Our data demonstrate that the lowest stimulation of immune endpoints was with 1mΨ made by the modified process, while mRNA containing canonical uridine was immunostimulatory regardless of process. These findings confirm that uridine modification and the reduction of dsRNA impurities are both necessary and sufficient at controlling the immune-activating profile of therapeutic mRNA.

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