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Biomaterials. 2010 Apr;31(12):3404-13. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.01.019. Epub 2010 Feb 1.

Acid-transforming polypeptide micelles for targeted nonviral gene delivery.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


Efficient delivery of therapeutic genes requires overcoming key extracellular and intracellular barriers. These include stability during circulation, internalization by target cells, facilitated endosomal escape, and localization of genes in destined intracellular compartments (e.g., nucleus). Micelles that transform their structure in the mildly acidic endosome and release their cargo genes into the cytoplasm were synthesized by self-assembling DNA with PEG-conjugated poly(ketalized serine) [PEG-poly(kSer)]. It was confirmed that, upon acid-hydrolysis of ketal linkages, poly(kSer) converts to neutral and naturally occurring poly(serine), destabilizing PEG-poly(kSer)/DNA micelles. In vitro studies demonstrated that PEG-poly(kSer) micelles were able to transfect NIH 3T3 cells more efficiently than both PEG-poly(Lys)/DNA micelles and poly-L-lysine/DNA polyplexes through efficient DNA dissociation in the cytoplasm. In addition, the core of PEG-poly(kSer)/DNA micelles were cross-linked via acid-cleavable amine-bearing branches, and the resulting cross-linked PEG-poly(kSer)/DNA micelles showed improved transfection capability in the presence of serum. Conjugation of folic acids (FAs) at the PEG termini of the acid-transforming micelles resulted in selectively increased cellular internalization and transfection of FA receptor-expressing HeLa cells over NIH 3T3 cells, implicating the possibility of cancer-targeted gene delivery using FA-PEG-poly(kSer)/DNA micelles. This study demonstrates that the acid-transforming PEG-poly(kSer)/DNA micelles are promising nonviral vectors for stimuli-responsive, efficient, biocompatible, and targeted gene delivery.

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