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Gene Ther. 1996 May;3(5):448-57.

A novel DNA-peptide complex for efficient gene transfer and expression in mammalian cells.

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Department of Cell Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.


To develop a nonviral gene delivery system for treatment of diseases, our strategy is to construct DNA complexes with short synthetic peptides that mimic the functions of viral proteins. We have designed and synthesized two peptides which emulate viral functions - a DNA condensing agent, YKAK(8)WK, and an amphipathic, pH-dependent endosomal releasing agent, GLFEALLELLESLWELLLEA. The active gene delivery complex was constructed step-wise through a spontaneous self-assembly process involving oppositely charged, electrostatic interactions. To assemble DNA-peptide complexes with different overall net charges, only the negative charges of DNA phosphate, the positive charges of the 10 epsilon-amino groups of YKAK(8)WK and the negative charges of the 5 gamma-carboxyl groups of GLFEALLELLESLWELLLEA were considered. In the first step, negatively charged DNA was rapidly-mixed with an excess of YKAK(8)WK to form positively charged DNA-YKAK(8)WK complexes, which gave little gene transfer. In the second step and to form the active complex,the cationic DNA complex was rapidly mixed with spontaneously incorporated through electrostatic interactions. Transfection using these complexes of CMV-luc, YKAK(8)WK and GLFEALLELLESLWELLLEA gave high-levels of gene expression in a variety of cell lines. These simple DNA complexes, which contain only three molecularly defined components, have general utility for gene delivery and can replace viral vectors and cationic lipids for some applications in gene therapy.

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