Theoretical basis for stabilizing messenger RNA through secondary structure design

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
H. K. Wayment-SteeleRhiju Das


RNA hydrolysis presents problems in manufacturing, long-term storage, world-wide delivery, and in vivo stability of messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines and therapeutics. A largely unexplored strategy to reduce mRNA hydrolysis is to redesign RNAs to form double-stranded regions, which are protected from in-line cleavage and enzymatic degradation, while coding for the same proteins. The amount of stabilization that this strategy can deliver and the most effective algorithmic approach to achieve stabilization remain poorly understood. Motivated by the need for stabilized COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, we present simple calculations for estimating RNA stability against hydrolysis, and a model that links the average unpaired probability of an mRNA, or AUP, to its overall rate of hydrolysis. To characterize the stabilization achievable through structure design, we compare optimization of AUP by conventional mRNA design methods to results from the LinearDesign algorithm, a new Monte Carlo tree search algorithm called RiboTree, and crowdsourcing through the OpenVaccine challenge on the Eterna platform. Tests were carried out on mRNAs encoding nanoluciferase, green fluorescent protein, and COVID-19 mRNA vaccine candidates encoding SARS-CoV-2 e...Continue Reading

Methods Mentioned

in vitro transcription

Software Mentioned

ViennaRNA package

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