Silencing Myostatin Using Cholesterol-conjugated siRNAs Induces Muscle Growth

Mol Ther Nucleic Acids. 2016 Aug 2;5(8):e342. doi: 10.1038/mtna.2016.55.


Short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are a valuable tool for gene silencing with applications in both target validation and therapeutics. Many advances have recently been made to improve potency and specificity, and reduce toxicity and immunostimulation. However, siRNA delivery to a variety of tissues remains an obstacle for this technology. To date, siRNA delivery to muscle has only been achieved by local administration or by methods with limited potential use in the clinic. We report systemic delivery of a highly chemically modified cholesterol-conjugated siRNA targeting muscle-specific gene myostatin (Mstn) to a full range of muscles in mice. Following a single intravenous injection, we observe 85-95% knockdown of Mstn mRNA in skeletal muscle and >65% reduction in circulating Mstn protein sustained for >21 days. This level of Mstn knockdown is also accompanied by a functional effect on skeletal muscle, with animals showing an increase in muscle mass, size, and strength. The cholesterol-conjugated siRNA platform described here could have major implications for treatment of a variety of muscle disorders, including muscular atrophic diseases, muscular dystrophy, and type II diabetes.