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Morpholino Antisense Oligos
A Brief Introduction to Morpholino AntisenseMorpholino oligos are advanced tools for blocking sites on RNA to obstruct cellular processes. A Morpholino oligo specifically binds to its selected target site to block access of cell components to that target site. This property can be exploited to block translation, block splicing, block miRNAs or their targets, and block ribozyme activity.
Translation Blocking: By sterically blocking the translation initiation complex, Morpholinos can knock down expression of many target sequences completely enough that after waiting for existing protein to degrade, the target protein band disappears from Western blots. Unlike many antisense types (e.g. siRNA, phosphorothioates), Morpholinos generally do not cause degradation of their RNA targets; instead, they block the biological activity of the target RNA until that RNA is degraded naturally, which releases the Morpholino. This means that RT-PCR is not suitable for assaying translation blocking by Morpholinos.
Splice Blocking: By blocking sites involved in splicing pre-mRNA, Morpholinos can be used to modify and control normal splicing events. This activity can be conveniently assayed by RT-PCR, with successful splice-modification appearing as changes in the RT-PCR product band on an electrophoretic gel. The band might shift to a new mass or, if splice-modification triggers nonsense-mediated decay of the transcript, the band will lose intensity or disappear.
Like all gene knockdown reagents, Morpholinos must be actively delivered into most cells. Morpholinos can be delivered into cultured cells by a variety of methods, including scrape-loading of adherent cells, electroporation, and even microinjection. However, our Endo-Porter delivery reagent generally gives the best delivery in cultured cells in terms of the amount of Morpholino delivered per cell, even distribution throughout a population of cells, reproducibility of delivery and non-toxicity. For animal experiments our Vivo-Morpholinos enter into cells from the blood after i.v. administration or enter cells in tissues surrounding local injections.
A Morpholino oligo is radically different from natural nucleic acids, with morpholine rings replacing the ribose or deoxyribose sugar moieties and non-ionic phosphorodiamidate linkages replacing the anionic phosphates of DNA and RNA. Each morpholine ring suitably positions one of the standard DNA bases (A,C,G,T) for pairing, so that a 25-base Morpholino oligo strongly and specifically binds to its complementary 25-base target site in a strand of RNA via Watson-Crick pairing. Because the uncharged backbone of the Morpholino oligo is not recognized by enzymes or signaling proteins, it is completely stable to nucleases and does not trigger an innate immune response through the Toll-like receptors. This avoids oligo degradation, inflammation and interferon induction, which are problems commonly encountered with other gene knockdown reagents.
We encourage you to bring a more precise and powerful tool to bear on your experimental challenges. Call our Ph.D.-level customer support group at Gene Tools to get started with Morpholinos in your studies. Phone: (541) 929-7840 ext. 1.
Some General Advice for Morpholino Experiments
When using a fluorescent Morpholino to confirm delivery, start with a concentration of 10 microMolar Morpholino oligo in the culture medium. This is a high enough concentration that after 16 hours the fluorescent-tagged Morpholino should be visible in the cytosol by fluorescence microscopy. An inverted fluorescent microscope is the best choice for observing cells in culture plates. Observe live (unfixed) cells. Use a dry objective lens with the highest available numerical aperture to gather as much light as possible from the cells. Successful delivery is manifested by diffuse fluorescence throughout the cytosol. Punctate fluorescence usually indicates that the oligo is trapped in endosomes, so ignore punctate spots and look for the diffuse fluorescence.
For actual experiments delivering your custom-sequence Morpholino with Endo-Porter you generally need a concentration of only 1 to 5 microMolar for effective steric blocking of most mRNAs.
DNA, RNA, and most gene knockdown reagents are typically stored in an ice bath during experiments to minimize degradation by nucleases. Because Morpholinos are completely resistant to enzymatic degradation and aqueous solutions are chemically stable indefinitely at room temperature, we recommend that during your experiments you keep your stock solutions of Morpholinos at room temperature. Chilling your stock solutions in an ice bath simply risks causing the Morpholino to precipitate out.
If you are keeping Morpholinos as aqueous stock solutions and notice a decrease in antisense activity of the solution, you can autoclave the stock (use the liquid cycle of the autoclave). The oligos are very heat stable and can tolerate several rounds of autoclaving without degradation. Often autoclaving will revive a stock that has lost some activity due to aggregation of oligo.
For long-term storage your Morpholino stock solutions are best stored lyophilized, The next-best choice is storage in solution at room temperature. Wrapping the closure of the vial in Parafilm can help minimize microbial contamination and evaporation. Be careful to keep the oligo from drying out, as it can be difficult or impossible to re-dissolve a dried-down oligo (though freeze-dried oligos dissolve fairly easily). Keeping the vial in a dark box is a good practice, as fluor-labeled oligos can photobleach in light.
These precautions are more than needed for most sequences, but their routine use helps to avoid unpleasant surprises in the event you encounter a sequence with low solubility.
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