Cellular delivery of small interfering RNA by a non-covalently attached cell-penetrating peptide: quantitative analysis of uptake and biological effect

Institut für Molekulare Medizin, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Universität zu Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160 23538, Lübeck, Germany.
Nucleic Acids Research (Impact Factor: 9.11). 02/2006; 34(22):6561-73. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkl941
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) have evolved as promising new tools to deliver nucleic acids into cells. So far, the majority of these delivery systems require a covalent linkage between carrier and cargo. To exploit the higher flexibility of a non-covalent strategy, we focused on the characterisation of a novel carrier peptide termed MPGalpha, which spontaneously forms complexes with nucleic acids. Using a luciferase-targeted small interfering RNA (siRNA) as cargo, we optimised the conditions for MPGalpha-mediated transfection of mammalian cells. In this system, reporter gene activity could be inhibited up to 90% with an IC50 value in the sub-nanomolar range. As a key issue, we addressed the cellular uptake mechanism of MPGalpha/siRNA complexes applying various approaches. First, transfection of HeLa cells with MPGalpha/siRNA complexes in the presence of several inhibitors of endocytosis showed a significant reduction of the RNA interference (RNAi) effect. Second, confocal laser microscopy revealed a punctual intracellular pattern rather than a diffuse distribution of fluorescently labelled RNA-cargo. These data provide strong evidence of an endocytotic pathway contributing significantly to the uptake of MPGalpha/siRNA complexes. Finally, we quantified the intracellular number of siRNA molecules after MPGalpha-mediated transfection. The amount of siRNA required to induce half maximal RNAi was 10 000 molecules per cell. Together, the combination of methods provided allows for a detailed side by side quantitative analysis of cargo internalisation and related biological effects. Thus, the overall efficiency of a given delivery technique as well as the mechanism of uptake can be assessed.

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