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Original article

Antiviral activity of PLK1-targeting siRNA delivered by lipid nanoparticles in HBV-infected hepatocytes

Adrien Foca, Ammen Dhillon, Thomas Lahlali, Julie Lucifora, Anna Salvetti, Michel Rivoire, Amy Lee, David Durantel

Corresponding author name: David Durantel
Corresponding author e-mail: david.durantel@inserm.fr

Citation: Antiviral Therapy 2020; 25:151-162
doi: 10.3851/IMP3361

Date accepted: 25 May 2020
Date published online: 04 June 2020


Background: A link between HBV and PLK1 was clearly evidenced in HBV-driven carcinogenesis, and we have also recently shown that PLK1 is a proviral factor in the early phases of HBV infection. Moreover, we have shown that BI-2536, a small molecule PLK1 inhibitor, was very efficient at inhibiting HBV DNA neosynthesis, notably by affecting nucleocapsid assembly as a result of the modulation of HBc phosphorylation. Yet, as small molecule kinase inhibitors often feature poor selectivity, a more specific and safer strategy to target PLK1 would be needed for a potential development against chronic HBV infections.

Methods: Here, we analysed using both freshly isolated primary human hepatocytes and differentiated HepaRG, the anti-HBV properties of an LNP-encapsulated PLK1-targeting siRNA. Standard assays were used to monitor the effect of LNP siPLK1, or controls (LNP siHBV and LNP siNon-targeting), on HBV replication and cell viability.

Results: A dose as low as 100 ng/ml of LNP-siPLK1 resulted in a >75% decrease in secreted HBV DNA (viral particles), which was comparable to that obtained with LNP siHBV or 10 ┬ÁM of tenofovir (TFV), without affecting cell viability. Interestingly, and in contrast to that obtained with TFV, a strong inhibition of viral RNA and HBe/HBsAg secretions was also observed under LNP siPLK1 treatment. This correlated with a significant intracellular decrease of vRNA accumulation, which was independent of any change in cccDNA levels, thus suggesting a transcriptional or post-transcriptional modulation. Such an effect was not obtained with a biochemical approach of PLK1 inhibition, suggesting an enzymatic-independent role of PLK1.

Conclusions: This study emphasizes that a specific PLK1 inhibition could help in achieving an improved HBsAg loss in CHB patients, likely in combination with other HBsAg-targeting strategies.


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