Super-resolution Imaging of Structure, Molecular Composition, and Stability of Single Oligonucleotide Polyplexes.
ABSTRACT: The successful application of gene therapy relies on the development of safe and efficient delivery vectors. Cationic polymers such as cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) can condense genetic material into nanoscale particles, called polyplexes, and induce cellular uptake. With respect to this point, several aspects of the nanoscale structure of polyplexes have remained elusive because of the difficulty in visualizing the molecular arrangement of the two components with nanometer resolution. This limitation has hampered the rational design of polyplexes based on direct structural information. Here, we used super-resolution imaging to study the structure and molecular composition of individual CPP-mRNA polyplexes with nanometer accuracy. We use two-color direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM) to unveil the impact of peptide stoichiometry on polyplex structure and composition and to assess their destabilization in blood serum. Our method provides information about the size and composition of individual polyplexes, allowing the study of such properties on a single polyplex basis. Furthermore, the differences in stoichiometry readily explain the differences in cellular uptake behavior. Thus, quantitative dSTORM of polyplexes is complementary to the currently used characterization techniques for understanding the determinants of polyplex activity in vitro and inside cells.
Project description:Combining multiple stimuli-responsive functionalities into the polymer design is an attractive approach to improve nucleic acid delivery. However, more in-depth fundamental understanding how the multiple functionalities in the polymer structures are influencing polyplex formation and stability is essential for the rational development of such delivery systems. Therefore, in this study the structure and dynamics of thermosensitive polyplexes were investigated by tracking the behavior of labeled plasmid DNA (pDNA) and polymer with time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). The successful synthesis of a heterofunctional poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) macroinitiator containing both an atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) and reversible addition-fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) initiator is reported. The use of this novel PEG macroinitiator allows for the controlled polymerization of cationic and thermosensitive linear triblock copolymers and labeling of the chain-end with a fluorescent dye by maleimide-thiol chemistry. The polymers consisted of a thermosensitive poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM, N), hydrophilic PEG (P), and cationic poly(2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate) (PDMAEMA, D) block, further referred to as NPD. Polymer block D chain-ends were labeled with Cy3, while pDNA was labeled with FITC. The thermosensitive NPD polymers were used to prepare pDNA polyplexes, and the effect of the N/P charge ratio, temperature, and composition of the triblock copolymer on the polyplex properties were investigated, taking nonthermosensitive PD polymers as the control. FRET was observed both at 4 and 37 °C, indicating that the introduction of the thermosensitive PNIPAM block did not compromise the polyplex structure even above the polymer's cloud point. Furthermore, FRET results showed that the NPD- and PD-based polyplexes have a less dense core compared to polyplexes based on cationic homopolymers (such as PEI) as reported before. The polyplexes showed to have a dynamic character meaning that the polymer chains can exchange between the polyplex core and shell. Mobility of the polymers allow their uniform redistribution within the polyplex and this feature has been reported to be favorable in the context of pDNA release and subsequent improved transfection efficiency, compared to nondynamic formulations.
Project description:The transfection efficiency (TE) of chitosan-plasmid DNA (pDNA) polyplexes can be critically modulated by the polymer degree of deacetylation (DDA) and molecular weight (MW). This study was performed to test the hypothesis that the TE dependence on chitosan MW and DDA is related to the polyplex stability, hence their intracellular decondensation/unpacking kinetics. Major barriers to nonviral gene transfer were studied by image-based quantification. Although uptake increased with increased DDA, it did not appear to be a structure-dependent process affecting TE, nor was nuclear entry. Colocalization analysis showed that all chitosans trafficked through lysosomes with similar kinetics. Fluorescent resonant energy transfer (FRET) analysis revealed a distinct relationship between TE and polyplex dissociation rate. The most efficient chitosans showed an intermediate stability and a kinetics of dissociation, which occurred in synchrony with lysosomal escape. In contrast, a rapid dissociation before lysosomal escape was found for the inefficient low DDA chitosan whereas the highly stable and inefficient complex formed by a high MW and high DDA chitosan did not dissociate even after 24 hours. This study identified that the kinetics of decondensation in relation to lysosomal escape was a most critical structure-dependent process affecting the TE of chitosan polyplexes.
Project description:A major challenge for non-viral gene delivery is gaining a mechanistic understanding of the rate-limiting steps. A critical barrier in polyplex-mediated gene delivery is the timely unpacking of polyplexes within the target cell to liberate DNA for efficient gene transfer. In this study, the component plasmid DNA and polymeric gene carrier were individually labeled with quantum dots (QDs) and Cy5 dyes, respectively, as a donor and acceptor pair for fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). The high signal-to-noise ratio in QD-mediated FRET enabled sensitive detection of discrete changes in polyplex stability. The intracellular uptake and dissociation of polyplexes through QD-FRET was captured over time by confocal microscopy. From quantitative image-based analysis, distributions of released plasmid within the endo/lysosomal, cytosolic, and nuclear compartments formed the basis for constructing a three-compartment first-order kinetics model. Polyplex unpacking kinetics for chitosan, polyethylenimine, and polyphosphoramidate were compared and found to correlate well with transfection efficiencies. Thus, QD-FRET-enabled detection of polyplex stability combined with image-based quantification is a valuable method for studying mechanisms involved in polyplex unpacking and trafficking within live cells. We anticipate that this method will also aid the design of more efficient gene carriers.
Project description:The effective delivery of DNA locally could increase the applicability of gene therapy in tissue regeneration and therapeutic angiogenesis. One promising approach is through use of porous hydrogel scaffolds that incorporate and deliver DNA in the form of nanoparticles to the affected sites. While we have previously reported on caged nanoparticle encapsulation (CnE) to load DNA polyplexes within hydrogels at high concentrations without aggregation, frequent issues with limited polyplex release following CnE have been encountered. In this study, we report two alternative approaches to polyplex presentation for decreasing aggregation in porous hydrogels. The first approach reduces polyplex aggregation by utilizing polyethylene glycol modification of the gene carrier polymer polyethyleneimine (sPEG-PEI) to mitigate charge-charge interactions between polyplexes and the scaffold during gelation. The second approach electrostatically presents polyplexes on the surfaces of scaffold pores as opposed to an encapsulated presentation. The sPEG-PEI polymer formed a smaller, less toxic, and more stable polyplex that exhibited less aggregation within HA gels when compared to the traditionally used linear PEI (LPEI) polymer. Surface-coated polyplexes also resulted in a more homogenous distribution of polyplexes in hydrogels. Furthermore, sPEG-PEI polyplexes retained transfection abilities comparable to LPEI in 3D surface-coated transfections. These results demonstrate a significant improvement in scaffold-mediated gene delivery and show promise in applications to multi-gene delivery systems.A promising gene delivery approach for regenerative medicine is implanting porous hydrogel scaffolds loaded with DNA nanoparticles for delivery to affected sites. However, loading DNA polyplexes at high concentrations within hydrogels results in significant aggregation. Here, we describe two methods for decreasing aggregation of DNA polyplexes in porous gels. First, the gene carrier polymer polyethyleneimine (PEI) was modified with polyethylene glycol (sPEG-PEI) to mitigate the electrostatic interactions between polyplexes and scaffold polymer to in turn decrease aggregation. Second, polyplexes were presented along the surfaces of the pores of the hydrogel instead of being encapsulated within the gel. These methods allow for highly tunable and sustained transgene expression from scaffold-mediated gene delivery while avoiding polyplex aggregation.
Project description:The expression efficiency in liver following hydrodynamic delivery of in vitro transcribed mRNA was improved 2000-fold using a codon-optimized mRNA luciferase construct with flanking 3' and 5' human ?-globin untranslated regions (UTR mRNA) over an unoptimized mRNA without ?-globin UTRs. Nanoparticle UTR mRNA polyplexes were formed using a novel polyacridine polyethylene glycol (PEG) peptide, resulting in an additional 15-fold increase in expression efficiency in the liver. The combined increase in expression for UTR mRNA PEG-peptide polyplexes was 3500-fold over mRNA lacking UTRs and PEG-peptide. The expression efficiency of UTR mRNA polyplex was 10-fold greater than the expression from an equivalent 1??g dose of pGL3. Maximal expression was maintained from 4 to 24?h. Serum incubation established the unique ability of the polyacridine PEG-peptide to protect UTR mRNA polyplexes from RNase metabolism by binding to double-stranded regions. UTR mRNA PEG-peptide polyplexes are efficient nonviral vectors that circumvent the need for a nuclear uptake, representing an advancement toward the development of a targeted gene delivery system to transfect liver hepatocytes.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Effective gene transfection without serum deprivation is a prerequisite for successful stem cell-based gene therapy. Polyethylenimine (PEI) is an efficient nonviral gene vector, but its application has been hindered by serum sensitivity and severe cytotoxicity. METHODS: To solve this problem, a new family of lipopolyplexes was developed by coating PEI/DNA polyplexes with three serum-resistant cationic lipids, namely, lysinylated, histidylated, and arginylated cholesterol. The physical properties, transfection efficiency, cellular uptake, subcellular distribution, and cytotoxicity of the lipopolyplexes was investigated. RESULTS: The outer coat composed of lysinylated or histidylated cholesterol remarkably improved the transfection efficiency of the polyplex with a low PEI/DNA ratio of 2 in the presence of serum. The resulting lysinylated and histidylated cholesterol lipopolyplexes were even more efficient than the best performing polyplex with a high PEI/DNA ratio of 10. Results from cellular uptake and subcellular distribution studies suggest that their higher transfection efficiency may result from accelerated DNA nuclear localization. The superiority of the lipopolyplexes over the best performing polyplex was also confirmed by delivering the therapeutic gene, hVEGF(165). Equally importantly, the lipid coating removed the necessity of introducing excess free PEI chains into the transfection solution for higher efficiency, generating lipopolyplexes with no signs of cytotoxicity. CONCLUSION: Noncovalent modification of polyplexes with lysinylated and histidylated cholesterol lipids can simultaneously improve efficiency and reduce the toxicity of gene delivery under serum conditions, showing great promise for genetic modification of bone marrow stem cells.
Project description:The metabolic instability of mRNA currently limits its utility for gene therapy. Compared to plasmid DNA, mRNA is significantly more susceptible to digestion by RNase in the circulation following systemic dosing. To increase mRNA metabolic stability, we hybridized a complementary reverse mRNA with forward mRNA to generate double-stranded mRNA (dsmRNA). RNase A digestion of dsmRNA established a 3000-fold improved metabolic stability compared to single-stranded mRNA (ssmRNA). Formulation of a dsmRNA polyplex using a PEG-peptide further improved the stability by 3000-fold. Hydrodynamic dosing and quantitative bioluminescence imaging of luciferase expression in the liver of mice established the potent transfection efficiency of dsmRNA and dsmRNA polyplexes. However, hybridization of the reverse mRNA against the 5' and 3' UTR of forward mRNA resulted in UTR denaturation and a tenfold loss in expression. Repeat dosing of dsmRNA polyplexes produced an equivalent transient expression, suggesting the lack of an immune response in mice. Co-administration of excess uncapped dsmRNA with a dsmRNA polyplex failed to knock down expression, suggesting that dsmRNA is not a Dicer substrate. Maximal circulatory stability was achieved using a fully complementary dsmRNA polyplex. The results established dsmRNA as a novel metabolically stable and transfection-competent form of mRNA.
Project description:Small interfering RNA (siRNA) targeted therapeutics (STT) offers a compelling alternative to tradition medications for treatment of genetic diseases by providing a means to silence the expression of specific aberrant proteins, through interference at the expression level. The perceived advantage of siRNA therapy is its ability to target, through synthetic antisense oligonucleotides, any part of the genome. Although STT provides a high level of specificity, it is also hindered by poor intracellular uptake, limited blood stability, high degradability and non-specific immune stimulation. Since serum proteins has been considered as useful vehicles for targeting tumors, in this study we investigated the effect of incorporation of human serum albumin (HSA) in branched polyethylenimine (bPEI)-siRNA polyplexes in their internalization in epithelial and endothelial cells. We observed that introduction of HSA preserves the capacity of bPEI to complex with siRNA and protect it against extracellular endonucleases, while affording significantly improved internalization and silencing efficiency, compared to bPEI-siRNA polyplexes in endothelial and metastatic breast cancer epithelial cells. Furthermore, the uptake of the HSA-bPEI-siRNA ternary polyplexes occurred primarily through a caveolae-mediated endocytosis, thus providing evidence for a clear role for HSA in polyplex internalization. These results provide further impetus to explore the role of serum proteins in delivery of siRNA.
Project description:Controlled intracellular disassembly of polyelectrolyte complexes of polycations and DNA (polyplexes) is a crucial step for the success of nonviral gene delivery. Motivated by our previous observation of different gene delivery performances among multiblock reducible copolypeptide vectors ( Manickam, D. S. ; Oupicky, D. Bioconjugate Chem. 2006, 17, 1395- 1403 ), atomic force microscopy is used to visualize plasmid DNA in various decondensed states from reducible polypeptide polyplexes under simulated physiological reducing conditions. DNA decondensation is triggered by reductive degradation of disulfide-containing cationic polypeptides. Striking differences in DNA release dynamics between polyplexes based on polypeptides of histidine-rich peptide (HRP, CKHHHKHHHKC) and nuclear localization signal (NLS, CGAGPKKKRKVC) peptide are presented. The HRP and NLS polyplexes are similar to each other in their initial morphology with a majority of them containing only one DNA plasmid. Upon reductive degradation by dithiothreitol, DNA is released from NLS abruptly regardless of the initial polyplex morphology, while DNA release from HRP polyplexes displays a gradual decondensation that is dependent on the size of polyplexes. The release rate is higher for larger HRP polyplexes. The smaller HRP polyplexes become unstable when they are in contact with expanding chains nearby. The results reveal potentially rich DNA release dynamics that can be controlled by subtle variation in multivalent counterion binding to DNA as well as the cellular matrix.
Project description:Although branched and linear polyethylenimines (bPEIs and lPEIs) are gold standard transfectants, a systematic analysis of the effects of the preparation protocol of polyplexes and the composition of the transfection medium on their physicochemical behaviour and effectiveness in vitro have been much neglected, undermining in some way the identification of precise structure-function relationships. This work aimed to address these issues. bPEI/DNA and lPEI/DNA, prepared using two different modes of addition of reagents, gave rise to polyplexes with exactly the same chemical composition but differing in dimensions. Upon dilution in serum-free medium, the size of any kind of polyplex promptly rose over time while remained invariably stable in complete DMEM. Of note, the bigger the dimension of polyplexes (in the nano- to micrometer range), the greater their efficiency in vitro. Besides, centrifugal sedimentation of polyplexes displaying different dimensions to speed up and enhance their settling onto cells boosted transfection efficiencies. Conversely, transgene expression was significantly blunted in cells held upside-down and transfected, definitively pointing out the impact of gravitational sedimentation of polyplexes on their transfection efficiency. Overall, much more attention must be paid to the actual polyplex size that relies on the complexation conditions and the transfection medium.