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Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are potentially attractive antisense agents against hepatitis B virus (HBV), although poor cellular uptake limits their therapeutic application. In the duck HBV (DHBV) model, we evaluated different cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) for delivery to hepatocytes of a PNA-targeting hepadnaviral encapsidation signal (ε). This anti-ε PNA exhibited sequence-specific inhibition of DHBV RT in a cell-free system. Investigation of the best in vivo route of delivery of PNA conjugated to (D-Arg)8 (P1) showed that intraperitoneal injection to ducklings was ineffective, whereas intravenously (i.v.) injected fluorescein-P1-PNA reached the hepatocytes. Treatment of virus carriers with i.v.-administered P1-PNA resulted in a decrease in viral DNA compared to untreated controls. Surprisingly, a similar inhibition of viral replication was observed in vivo as well as in vitro in primary hepatocyte cultures for a control 2 nt mismatched PNA conjugated to P1. By contrast, the same PNA coupled to (D-Lys)4 (P2) inhibited DHBV replication in a sequence-specific manner. Interestingly, only P1, but not P2, displayed anti-DHBV activity in the absence of PNA cargo. Hence, we provide new evidence that CPP-PNA conjugates inhibit DHBV replication following low-dose administration. Importantly, our results demonstrate the key role of CPPs used as vehicles in antiviral specificity of CPP-PNA conjugates.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Ther Nucleic Acids

Publication Date





162 - 169


CPP, DHBV, HBV, PNA, antiviral therapy, cell uptake, cell-penetrating peptide, duck hepatitis B virus, hepatitis B virus, peptide nucleic acid