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J Drug Target. 2004 Jan;12(1):25-38.

Modifications in the head group and in the spacer of cholesterol-based cationic lipids promote transfection in melanoma B16-F10 cells and tumours.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Chimie Structurale et Spectroscopie Biomoléculaire, CNRS UMR, UFR de Médecine, Université Paris XIII, 74 rue Marcel Cachin F93017, Bobigny Cedex, France.


A series of four cationic lipids derived from cholesterol was synthesised and their efficiencies to vectorise nucleic acids were compared. The investigation concerns the effects of systematic chemical modifications in the polar head and in the spacer. The cationic lipid molecules used are in the same family of 3beta[N-(N',N',N'-trimethylaminoethane)-carbamoyl] cholesterol iodide (TMAEC-Chol), presenting a spacer of two or three carbons and a quaternary ammonium polar head ramified with methyl or ethyl groups. These lipids formed stable liposomes sizing from 100 to 200 nm when prepared with the colipid dioleoyl phosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE). The goal of this work was to investigate the effect of the chemical structure of these cationic lipids on lipofection. Their ability to form complexes with DNA, their cytotoxicity and their transfection efficiency in vitro and in vivo were studied. Results were compared with those obtained from the well known cholesterol-based cationic lipid DC-Chol. In a melanoma cell line (B16-F10), results showed that either the polar head or the spacer affected the cytotoxicity. Cationic lipids with three ethyl groups in the head are more toxic than those with three methyl groups while cationic lipids with three carbons in the spacer are less toxic than those with two carbons in the spacer. The best transfection level was obtained in vitro and in vivo with cationic lipids having 3C in the spacer. Data indicated that among these lipids, in vivo gene transfer is advantaged by the methylated polar head while in vitro the best level was obtained with the ethylated one. Finally, it was observed that the chemical structure influences the transfection in the presence of serum while the complex charge and the DOPE ratios in liposomes preferentially affect the interaction with erythrocytes. Argumentations are proposed to explain the discrepancies between in vitro and in vivo transfection results concerning the optimal charge ratio and the chemical nature of the cationic lipid head group.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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