The Pharmacokinetics of 2'- O-Methyl Phosphorothioate Antisense Oligonucleotides: Experiences from Developing Exon Skipping Therapies for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Nucleic Acid Ther. 2019 Dec;29(6):305-322. doi: 10.1089/nat.2019.0805. Epub 2019 Aug 20.


Delivery to the target site and adversities related to off-target exposure have made the road to clinical success and approval of antisense oligonucleotide (AON) therapies challenging. Various classes of AONs have distinct chemical features and pharmacological properties. Understanding the similarities and differences in pharmacokinetics (PKs) among AON classes is important to make future development more efficient and may facilitate regulatory guidance of AON development programs. For the class of 2'-O-methyl phosphorothioate (2OMe PS) RNA AONs, most nonclinical and clinical PK data available today are derived from development of exon skipping therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). While some publications have featured PK aspects of these AONs, no comprehensive overview is available to date. This article presents a detailed review of absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of 2OMe PS AONs, compiled from publicly available data and previously unpublished internal data on drisapersen and related exon skipping candidates in preclinical species and DMD patients. Considerations regarding drug-drug interactions, toxicokinetics, and pharmacodynamics are also discussed. From the data presented, the picture emerges of consistent PK properties within the 2OMe PS class, predictable behavior across species, and a considerable overlap with other single-stranded PS AONs. A level of detail on muscle as a target tissue is provided, which was not previously available. Furthermore, muscle biopsy samples taken in DMD clinical trials allowed confirmation of the applicability of interspecies scaling approaches commonly applied in the absence of clinical target tissue data.

Keywords: 2′-O-methyl phosphorothioate; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; drisapersen; oligonucleotides; pharmacokinetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dystrophin / genetics
  • Exons / drug effects
  • Genetic Therapy / trends*
  • Humans
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / therapy*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / genetics*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / pharmacokinetics
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / therapeutic use
  • Phosphorothioate Oligonucleotides / genetics*
  • Phosphorothioate Oligonucleotides / pharmacokinetics
  • Phosphorothioate Oligonucleotides / therapeutic use
  • RNA Splicing / drug effects


  • Dystrophin
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Phosphorothioate Oligonucleotides