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Nucleic Acid Ther. 2018 Jun;28(3):166-177. doi: 10.1089/nat.2018.0727. Epub 2018 Apr 30.

Intracellular Trafficking and Endosomal Release of Oligonucleotides: What We Know and What We Don't.

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Initos Pharmaceuticals LLC, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina , Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


Understanding the cellular uptake and intracellular trafficking of oligonucleotides provides an important basic underpinning for the developing field of oligonucleotide-based therapeutics. Whether delivered as "free" oligonucleotides, as ligand-oligonucleotide conjugates, or in association with various nanocarriers, all forms of oligonucleotide enter cells by endocytosis and are initially ensconced within membrane-limited vesicles. Accordingly, the locus and extent of release to the cytosol and nucleus are key determinants of the pharmacological actions of oligonucleotides. A number of recent studies have explored the intracellular trafficking of various forms of oligonucleotides and their release from endomembrane compartments. These studies reveal a surprising convergence on an early-intermediate compartment in the trafficking pathway as the key locus of release for oligonucleotides administered in "free" form as well as those delivered with lipid complexes. Thus, oligonucleotide release from multivesicular bodies or from late endosomes seems to be the crucial endogenous process for attaining pharmacological effects. This intrinsic process of oligonucleotide release may be amplified by delivery agents such as lipid complexes or small molecule enhancers.


antisense; endosomal release; trafficking

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