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Bioconjug Chem. 2013 Mar 20;24(3):314-32. doi: 10.1021/bc3004099. Epub 2013 Mar 7.

pH-triggered nanoparticle mediated delivery of siRNA to liver cells in vitro and in vivo.

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Imperial College Genetic Therapies Centre, Department of Chemistry, Flowers Building, Armstrong Road, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, United Kingdom.


Recently, we reported for the first time the development of pH-triggered nanoparticles for the functional delivery of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to liver for treatment of hepatitis B virus infections in vivo. Here, we report on systematic formulation and biophysical studies of three different pH-triggered nanoparticle formulations looking for ways to improve on the capabilities of our previous nanoparticle system. We demonstrate how pH-triggered, PEGylated siRNA nanoparticles stable with respect to aggregation in 80% serum can still release siRNA payload at pH 5.5 within 30 min. This capability allows functional delivery to cultured murine hepatocyte cells in vitro, despite a high degree of PEGylation (5 mol %). We also demonstrate that pH-triggered, PEGylated siRNA nanoparticles typically enter cells by clathrin-coated pit endocytosis, but functional delivery requires membrane fusion events (fusogenicity). Biodistribution studies indicate that >70% of our administered nanoparticles are found in liver hepatocytes, post intravenous administration. Pharmacodynamic experiments show siRNA delivery to murine liver effecting maximum knockdown 48 h post administration from a single dose, while control (nontriggered) nanoparticles require 96 h and two doses to demonstrate the same effect. We also describe an anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) proof-of-concept experiment indicating the possibility of RNAi therapy for HCV infections using pH-triggered, PEGylated siRNA nanoparticles.

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