Membrane and Nuclear Permeabilization by Polymeric pDNA Vehicles: Efficient Method for Gene Delivery or Mechanism of Cytotoxicity?

Department of Chemistry, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, United States.
Molecular Pharmaceutics (Impact Factor: 4.79). 12/2011; 9(3):523-38. DOI: 10.1021/mp200368p
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The aim of this study is to compare the cytotoxicity mechanisms of linear PEI to two analogous polymers synthesized by our group: a hydroxyl-containing poly(l-tartaramidoamine) (T4) and a version containing an alkyl chain spacer poly(adipamidopentaethylenetetramine) (A4) by studying the cellular responses to polymer transfection. We have also synthesized analogues of T4 with different molecular weights (degrees of polymerization of 6, 12, and 43) to examine the role of molecular weight on the cytotoxicity mechanisms. Several mechanisms of polymer-induced cytotoxicity are investigated, including plasma membrane permeabilization, the formation of potentially harmful polymer degradation products during transfection including reactive oxygen species, and nuclear membrane permeabilization. We hypothesized that since cationic polymers are capable of disrupting the plasma membrane, they may also be capable of disrupting the nuclear envelope, which could be a potential mechanism of how the pDNA is delivered into the nucleus (other than nuclear envelope breakdown during mitosis). Using flow cytometry and confocal microscopy, we show that the polycations with the highest amount of protein expression and toxicity, PEI and T4(43), are capable of inducing nuclear membrane permeability. This finding is important for the field of nucleic acid delivery in that direct nucleus permeabilization could be not only a mechanism for pDNA nuclear import but also a potential mechanism of cytotoxicity and cell death. We also show that the production of reactive oxygen species is not a main mechanism of cytotoxicity, and that the presence or absence of hydroxyl groups and polymer length play a role in polyplex size and charge in addition to protein expression efficiency and toxicity.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Nonviral gene delivery is a promising therapeutic approach because of its safety and controllability, yet limited gene transfer efficacy is a common issue. Most nonviral strategies rely upon endosomal escape designs; however, endosomal escape is often uncorrelated with improved gene transfer and membranolytic structures are typically cytotoxic. Previously, we showed that histone-targeted polyplexes trafficked to the nucleus through an alternative route involving caveolae and the Golgi and endoplasmic reticulum (ER), using pathways similar to several pathogens. We hypothesized that the efficacy of these polyplexes was due to an increased utilization of native vesicular trafficking as well as regulation by histone effectors. Accordingly, using confocal microscopy and cellular fractionation, we determined that a key effect of histone-targeting was to route polyplexes away from clathrin-mediated recycling pathways by harnessing endomembrane transfer routes regulated by histone methyltransferases. An unprecedented finding was that polyplexes accumulated in Rab6-labeled Golgi/ER vesicles and ultimately shuttled directly into the nucleus during ER-mediated nuclear envelope reassembly. Specifically, super resolution microscopy and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy unequivocally indicated that the polyplexes remained associated with ER vesicles/membranes until mitosis, when they were redistributed into the nucleus. These novel findings highlight alternative mechanisms to subvert endolysosomal trafficking and harness the ER to enhance gene transfer.
    02/2015; 4(2):e226. DOI:10.1038/mtna.2015.2
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study designs a novel nanoparticle system with core-shell structure based on pullulan and poly(β-amino) ester (PBAE) for the hepatoma-targeted co-delivery of gene and chemotherapy agent. Plasmid DNA expressing green fluorescent protein (pEGFP), as a model gene, was fully condensed with cationic PBAE to form the inner core of PBAE/pEGFP polycomplex. Methotrexate (MTX), as a model chemotherapy agent, was conjugated to pullulan by ester bond to synthesize polymeric prodrug of MTX-PL. MTX-PL was then adsorbed on the surface of PBAE/pEGFP polycomplex to form MTX-PL/PBAE/pEGFP nanoparticles with a classic core-shell structure. MTX-PL was also used as a hepatoma targeting moiety, due to its specific binding affinity for asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGPR) over-expressed by human hepatoma HepG2 cells. MTX-PL/PBAE/pEGFP nanoparticles realized the efficient transfection of pEGFP in HepG2 cells and exhibited significant inhibitory effect on the cell proliferation. In HepG2 tumor-bearing nude mice, MTX-PL/PBAE/pEGFP nanoparticles were mainly distributed in the tumor after 24 h post intravenous injection. Altogether, this novel co-delivery system with a strong hepatoma-targeting property achieved simultaneous delivery of gene and chemotherapy agent into tumor at both cellular and animal levels.
    ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 10/2014; 6(21). DOI:10.1021/am504203x
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Polyethylenimines (PEIs) have proven to be highly efficient and versatile agents for nucleic acid delivery in vitro and in vivo. Despite the low biodegradability of these polymers, they have been used in several clinical trials and the results suggest that the nucleic acid/PEI complexes have a good safety profile. The high transfection efficiency of PEIs probably relies on the fact that these polymers possess a stock of amines that can undergo protonation during the acidification of endosomes. This buffering capacity likely enhances endosomal escape of the polyplexes through the "proton sponge" effect. PEIs have also attracted great interest because the presence of many amino groups allow for easy chemical modifications or conjugation of targeting moieties and hydrophilic polymers. In the present chapter, we summarize and discuss the mechanism of PEI-mediated transfection, as well as the recent developments in PEI-mediated DNA, antisense oligonucleotide, and siRNA delivery.