Liver is a key organ for numerous metabolic pathways and involves many inherited diseases that, although being different in their pathology, are often caused by lack or overproduction of a critical gene product in the diseased cells. In principle, a straightforward method to fix such problem is to introduce into these cells with a gene-coding sequence to provide the missing gene product, or with the nucleic acid sequence to inhibit production of the excessive gene product. Practically, however, success of nucleic acid-based pharmaceutics is dependent on availability of a method capable of delivering nucleic acid sequence in the form of DNA or RNA to liver cells. In this review, we will summarize the progress toward development of physical methods for nucleic acid delivery to liver. Emphasis is placed on the mechanism of action, pros and cons of each method developed so far. We hope the information provided will encourage new endeavor to improve the current methodologies or develop new strategies that will lead to safe and effective delivery of nucleic acids to liver.
Gene delivery; non-viral vectors; physical method; liver; transfection
The notorious biotechnological advance of the last few decades has allowed the development of experimental methods for understanding molecular mechanisms of genes and new therapeutic approaches. Gene therapy is maturing into a viable, practical method with the potential to cure a variety of human illnesses. Some nucleic-acid-based drugs are now available for controlling the progression of genetic diseases by inhibiting gene expression or the activity of their gene products. New therapeutic strategies employ a wide range of molecular tools such as bacterial plasmids containing transgenic inserts, RNA interference and aptamers. A nucleic-acid based constitution confers a lower immunogenic potential and as result of the high stringency selection of large molecular variety, these drugs have high affinity and selectivity for their targets. However, nucleic acids have poor biostability thus requiring chemical modifications and delivery systems to maintain their activity and ease their cellular internalization. This review discusses some of the mechanisms of action and the application of therapies based on nucleic acids such as aptamers and RNA interference as well as platforms for cellular uptake and intracellular delivery of therapeutic oligonucleotides and their trade-offs.
aptamers; RNA interference (RNAi); drug delivery systems; nucleic-acid-based drugs
There has been great interest recently in therapeutic use of nucleic acids including genes, ribozymes and antisense oligonucleotides. Despite recent improvements in delivering antisense oligonucleotides to cells in culture, nucleic acid-based therapy is still often limited by the poor penetration of the nucleic acid into the cytoplasm and nucleus of cells. In this report we describe nucleic acid delivery to cells using a series of novel cationic amphiphiles containing cholic acid moieties linked via alkylamino side chains. We term these agents 'molecular umbrellas' since the cationic alkylamino chains provide a 'handle' for binding of nucleic acids, while the cholic acid moieties are likely to interact with the lipid bilayer allowing the highly charged nucleic acid backbone to traverse across the cell membrane. Optimal gene and oligonucleotide delivery to cells was afforded by a derivative (amphiphile 5) containing four cholic acid moieties. With this amphiphile used as a constituent in cationic liposomes, a 4-5 log increase in reporter gene delivery was measured. This amphiphile used alone provided a 250-fold enhancement of oligo-nucleotide association with cells as observed by flow cytometry. A substantial fraction of cells exposed to complexes of amphiphile 5 and fluorescent oligo-nucleotide showed nuclear accumulation of the fluorophore. Enhanced pharmacological effectiveness of antisense oligonucleotides complexed with amphiphile 5 was observed using an antisense splicing correction assay that activates a Luciferase reporter. Intracellular delivery, nuclear localization and pharmacological effectiveness of oligonucleotides using amphiphile 5 were similar to those afforded by commercial cytofectins. However, in contrast to most commercial cytofectins, the umbrella amphiphile showed substantial delivery activity even in the presence of high concentrations of serum.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is known to bind with extraordinarily high affinity and sequence-specificity to complementary nucleic acid sequences and can be used to suppress gene expression. However, effective delivery into cells is a major obstacle to the development of PNA for gene therapy applications. Here, we present a novel method for the in vitro delivery of antigene PNA to cells. By using a nucleocapsid protein derived from Simian virus 40, we have been able to package PNA into pseudovirions, facilitating the delivery of the packaged PNA into cells. We demonstrate that this system can be used effectively to suppress gene expression associated with multidrug resistance in cancer cells, as shown by RT-PCR, flow cytometry, Western blotting, and cell viability under chemotherapy. The combination of PNA with the SV40-based delivery system is a method for suppressing a gene of interest that could be broadly applied to numerous targets.
Neuron-targeted, nucleic acid delivery systems are important technologies for realizing the potential of gene therapy for nervous system disorders. However, neurons are difficult cells to transfect using non-viral vectors due in part to the specific and unique delivery challenges present in these cells. We have investigated several bioactive peptides for their ability to assist in overcoming delivery barriers in mammalian cells. We summarize here our recent progress in developing and applying peptide-modified polycations for nucleic acid delivery. In addition, we present data demonstrating the potential of using multicomponent, peptide-modified polycations for nucleic acid delivery to neurons.
Non-viral gene delivery; neurons; peptides; polyethylenimine
Targeted delivery of functional nucleic acids (genes and oligonucleotides) to pulmonary endothelium may become a novel therapy for the treatment of various types of lung diseases. It may also provide a new research tool to study the functions and regulation of novel genes in pulmonary endothelium. Its success is largely dependent on the development of a vehicle that is capable of efficient pulmonary delivery with minimal toxicity. This review summarizes the recent progress that has been made in our laboratory along these research directions. Factors that affect pulmonary nucleic acids delivery are also discussed.
delivery; endothelial cells; genes; lung; oligonucleotides; pulmonary circulation; siRNA; targeting
Gene delivery using nonviral approaches has been extensively studied as a basic tool for intracellular gene transfer and gene therapy. In the past, the primary focus has been on application of physical, chemical, and biological principles to development of a safe and efficient method that delivers a transgene into target cells for appropriate expression. This review summarizes the current status of the most commonly used nonviral methods, with an emphasis on their mechanism of action for gene delivery, and their advantages and limitations for gene therapy applications. The technical aspects of each delivery system are also reviewed, with a focus on how to achieve optimal delivery efficiency. A brief discussion of future development and further improvement of the current systems is intended to stimulate new ideas and encourage rapid advancement in this new and promising field.
Gene delivery; gene therapy; nonviral vectors; transfection
The dramatic acceleration in identification of new nucleic-acid-based therapeutic molecules has provided new perspectives in pharmaceutical research. However, their development is limited by their poor cellular uptake and inefficient trafficking. Here we describe a short amphipathic peptide, Pep-3, that combines a tryptophan/phenylalanine domain with a lysine/arginine-rich hydrophilic motif. Pep-3 forms stable nano-size complexes with peptide-nucleic acid analogues and promotes their efficient delivery into a wide variety of cell lines, including primary and suspension lines, without any associated cytotoxicity. We demonstrate that Pep-3-mediated delivery of antisense-cyclin B1-charged-PNA blocks tumour growth in vivo upon intratumoral and intravenous injection. Moreover, we show that PEGylation of Pep-3 significantly improves complex stability in vivo and consequently the efficiency of antisense cyclin B1 administered intravenously. Given the biological characteristics of these vectors, we believe that peptide-based delivery technologies hold a true promise for therapeutic applications of DNA mimics.
Materials that provide spatial and temporal control over the delivery of DNA and other nucleic acid-based agents from surfaces play important roles in the development of localized gene-based therapies. This review focuses on a relatively new approach to the immobilization and release of DNA from surfaces: methods based on the layer-by-layer assembly of thin multilayered films (or polyelectrolyte multilayers, PEMs). Layer-by-layer methods provide convenient, nanometer-scale control over the incorporation of DNA, RNA, and oligonucleotide constructs into thin polyelectrolyte films. Provided that these assemblies can be designed in ways that permit controlled film disassembly under physiological conditions, this approach can contribute new methods for spatial and/or temporal control over the delivery of nucleic acid-based therapeutics in vitro and in vivo. We describe applications of layer-by-layer assembly to the fabrication of DNA-containing films that can be used to provide control over the release of plasmid DNA from the surfaces of macroscopic objects and promote surface-mediated cell transfection. We also highlight the application of these methods to the coating of colloidal substrates and the fabrication of hollow micrometer-scale capsules that can be used to encapsulate and control the release or delivery of DNA and oligonucleotides. Current challenges, gaps in knowledge, and new opportunities for the development of these methods in the general area of gene delivery are discussed.
Gene delivery; Polyelectrolyte; Multilayered Films; Layer-by-layer; DNA; Transfection; Capsules
A simple method for the detection of sequence- and structural-selective ligand binding to nucleic acids is described. The method is based on the commonly used thermal denaturation method in which ligand binding is registered as an elevation in the nucleic acid melting temperature (Tm). The method can be extended to yield a new, higher -throughput, assay by the simple expediency of melting designed mixtures of polynucleotides (or oligonucleotides) with different sequences or structures of interest. Upon addition of ligand to such mixtures at low molar ratios, the Tm is shifted only for the nucleic acid containing the preferred sequence or structure. Proof of principle of the assay is provided using first a mixture of polynucleotides with different sequences and, second, with a mixture containing DNA, RNA and two types of DNA:RNA hybrid structures. Netropsin, ethidium, daunorubicin and actinomycin, ligands with known sequence preferences, were used to illustrate the method. The applicability of the approach to oligonucleotide systems is illustrated by the use of simple ternary and binary mixtures of defined sequence deoxyoligonucleotides challenged by the bisanthracycline WP631. The simple mixtures described here provide proof of principle of the assay and pave the way for the development of more sophisticated mixtures for rapidly screening the selectivity of new nucleic acid binding compounds.
Nucleic acids ligation is a vital process in the repair, replication and recombination of nucleic acids. Traditionally, it is assayed by denatured gel electrophoresis and autoradiography, which are not sensitive, and are complex and discontinuous. Here we report a new approach for ligation monitoring using molecular beacon DNA probes. The molecular beacon, designed in such a way that its sequence is complementary with the product of the ligation process, is used to monitor the nucleic acid ligation in a homogeneous solution and in real-time. Our method is fast and simple. We are able to study nucleic acids ligation kinetics conveniently and to determine the activity of DNA ligase accurately. We have studied different factors that influence DNA ligation catalyzed by T4 DNA ligase. The major advantages of our method are its ultrasensitivity, excellent specificity, convenience and real-time monitoring in homogeneous solution. This method will be widely useful for studying nucleic acids ligation process and other nucleic acid interactions.
Development of a practical gene point-of-care testing device (g-POCT device) requires innovative detection methods for demonstrating the results of the gene amplification reaction without the use of expensive equipment. We have studied a new method for the sequence-specific visual detection of minute amounts of nucleic acids using precipitation reaction by addition of cationic polymers to amplicons of Loop mediated isothermal Amplification (LAMP).
Oligo DNA probes labeled with different fluorescent dyes were prepared for multiple nucleic acid templates, and the templates were amplified by the LAMP reactions under the existence of the probes. At completion of the LAMP reaction, an optimal amount of low molecular weight polyethylenimine (PEI) was added, resulting in the precipitation of the insoluble LAMP amplicon-PEI complex. The fluorescently labeled Oligo DNA probes hybridized to the LAMP product were incorporated into the precipitation, and the precipitate emitted fluorescence corresponding to the amplified nucleic acid templates. The color of emitted fluorescence can be detected easily by naked eye on a conventional UV illuminator.
The presence or absence of minute amount of nucleic acid templates could be detected in a simple manner through visual assessment for the color of the LAMP amplicon-PEI complex precipitate. We conclude that this detection method may facilitate development of small and simple g-POCT device.
We have shown previously that a peptide, MPG, derived from the hydrophobic fusion peptide of HIV-1 gp41 and the hydrophilic nuclear localisation sequence of SV40 large T antigen, can be used as a powerful tool for the delivery of oligonucleotides into cultured cells. Now we extend the potential of MPG to the delivery of nucleic acids into cultured cells. In vitro, MPG interacts strongly with nucleic acids, most likely forming a peptide cage around them, which stabilises and protects them from degradation in cell culture media. MPG is non-cytotoxic, insensitive to serum and efficiently delivers plasmids into several different cell lines in only 1 h. Moreover, MPG enables complete expression of the gene products encoded by the plasmids it delivers into cultured cells. Finally, we have investigated the potential of MPG as an efficient delivery agent for gene therapy, by attempting to deliver antisense nucleic acids targeting an essential cell cycle gene. MPG efficiently delivered a plasmid expressing the full-length antisense cDNA of human cdc25C, which consequently successfully reduced cdc25C expression levels and promoted a block to cell cycle progression. Based on our results, we conclude that MPG is a potent delivery agent for the generalised delivery of nucleic acids as well as of oligonucleotides into cultured cells and believe that its contribution to the development of new gene therapy strategies could be of prime interest.
A new method using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization
(MALDI) mass spectrometry for the direct analysis of the mass-silent
post-transcriptionally modified nucleoside pseudouridine in nucleic acids
has been developed. This method utilizes 1-cyclohexyl-3-(2-morpholinoethyl)carbodiimide to derivatize
pseudouridine residues. After chemical derivatization all pseudouridine
residues will contain a 252 Da ‘mass tag’ that
allows the presence of pseudouridine to be identified using mass
spectrometry. Pseudouridine residues can be identified in intact nucleic
acids by obtaining a mass spectrum of the nucleic acid before and
after derivatization. The mass difference (in units of 252 Da) will
denote the number of pseudouridine residues present. To determine
the sequence location of pseudouridine, a combination of enzymatic
hydrolysis and mass spectrometric steps are used. Here, MALDI analysis
of RNase T1 digestion products before and after modification are used
to narrow the sequence location of pseudouridine to specific T1
fragments in the gene sequence. Further mass spectrometric monitoring
of exonuclease digestion products from isolated T1 fragments is
then used for exact sequence placement. This approach to pseudouridine
identification is demonstrated using Escherichia coli tRNAs.
This new method allows for the direct determination of pseudouridine
in nucleic acids, can be used to identify modified pseudouridine
residues and can be used with general modification mapping approaches
to completely characterize the post-transcriptional modifications present
A novel approach was developed to efficiently package and deliver nucleic acids with low generation polypropylenimine (PPI) dendrimers by using Au nanoparticles as a “labile catalytic” packaging agent. The Au nanoparticles (Au NPs) helped low generation dendrimers to package nucleic acids into discrete nanoparticles but are not included in the final DNA/siRNA complexes. Therefore it becomes possible to eliminate the potential toxic problems associated with Au NPs by selectively removing the Au NPs from the resulting nucleic acid complexes before their delivery to targeted cells. This is a new concept in using inorganic engineered nanoparticles in nucleic acid packaging and delivery applications. Furthermore, compared to the siRNA nanostructures (mainly randomly aggregated nanofibers) fabricated by low generation dendrimer alone (Generation 3), the siRNA nanoparticles packaged using this novel approach (by Au NPs modified with G3 PPI) can be internalized by cancer cells and the delivered siRNAs can efficiently silence their target mRNA. The efficiency of mRNA silencing by this novel approach is even superior to higher generation dendrimers (Generation 5).
Gene therapy; siRNA; plasmid DNA; non-viral gene delivery; Au nanoparticles; polypropylenimine (PPI) dendrimers
Importance of the field
Gene therapy has the potential to treat a wide variety of diseases including genetic diseases and cancer.
Areas covered in this review
This review introduces biomaterials used for gene delivery and then focuses on the use of electrostatic surface modifications to improve gene delivery materials. These modifications have been used to stabilize therapeutics in vivo, add cell-specific targeting ligands, and promote controlled release. Coatings of nanoparticles and microparticles as well as non-particulate surface coatings are covered in this review. Electrostatic principles are crucial for the development of multilayer delivery structures fabricated by the layer-by-layer method.
What the reader will gain
The reader will gain knowledge about the composition of biomaterials used for surface modifications and how these coatings and multilayers can be utilized to improve spatial control and efficiency of delivery. Examples are shown for the delivery of nucleic acids, including DNA and siRNA, to in vitro and in vivo systems.
Take home message
The versatile and powerful approach of electrostatic coatings and multilayers will lead to the development of enhanced gene therapies.
gene delivery; coating; electrostatic; multilayer; surface; nanoparticle; targeting; polymer; biomaterials
The nucleic acid exchange reaction is a common feature for genetic recombination, DNA replication and transcription. Due to the fact that in the strand-exchange reactions the reactant and product molecules have similar or identical nucleotide sequences, the reaction is undetectable. As a rule, the nucleic acids with radioactive or fluorescence labels are used in such studies. Besides the fact that the labels can perturb the reaction and pose a health risk to the investigators, the assays usually involve extra experimental steps: quenching the reaction, separation, visualization and quantification of the products. Here, we describe a straightforward, direct and precise method to study strand-exchange reaction of unlabeled nucleic acids by real-time measurements of optical absorption. The method takes advantage of the property of some guanine-rich oligonucleotides to adopt monomolecular quadruplex conformation in the presence of certain cations. The conformation is characterized by significant absorption in long-wavelength range of the ultraviolet region where usually other secondary structures are transparent. The ‘signal’ oligonucleotide is incorporated into reactant duplex by annealing with target sequence. Adding the replacement sequence initiates the release of the ‘signal’ oligonucleotide into solution, which is accompanied by ultraviolet absorption in long-wavelength range.
It is informative to detect highly conserved positions in proteins and nucleic acid sequence/structure since they are often indicative of structural and/or functional importance. ConSurf (http://consurf.tau.ac.il) and ConSeq (http://conseq.tau.ac.il) are two well-established web servers for calculating the evolutionary conservation of amino acid positions in proteins using an empirical Bayesian inference, starting from protein structure and sequence, respectively. Here, we present the new version of the ConSurf web server that combines the two independent servers, providing an easier and more intuitive step-by-step interface, while offering the user more flexibility during the process. In addition, the new version of ConSurf calculates the evolutionary rates for nucleic acid sequences. The new version is freely available at: http://consurf.tau.ac.il/.
The accessibility of skin makes it an ideal target organ for nucleic acid-based therapeutics; however, effective patient-friendly delivery remains a major obstacle to clinical utility. A variety of limited and inefficient methods of delivering nucleic acids to keratinocytes have been demonstrated; further advances will require well-characterized reagents, rapid noninvasive assays of delivery, and well-developed skin model systems. Using intravital fluorescence and bioluminescence imaging and a standard set of reporter plasmids we demonstrate transfection of cells in mouse and human xenograft skin using intradermal injection and two microneedle array delivery systems. Reporter gene expression could be detected in individual keratinocytes, in real-time, in both mouse skin as well as human skin xenografts. These studies revealed that non-invasive intravital imaging can be used as a guide for developing gene delivery tools, establishing a benchmark for comparative testing of nucleic acid skin delivery technologies.
We have developed a straightforward assay for the rapid typing of enteroviruses using oligonucleotide arrays in microtiter wells. The viral nucleic acids are concomitantly amplified and labeled during reverse transcription-PCR, and unpurified PCR products are used for hybridization. DNA strands are separated by alkaline denaturation, and hybridization is started by neutralization. The microarray hybridization reactions and the subsequent washes are performed in standard 96-well microtiter plates, which makes the method easily adaptable to high-throughput analysis. We describe here the assay principle and its potential in clinical laboratory use by correctly identifying 10 different enterovirus reference strains. Furthermore, we explore the detection of unknown sequence variants using serotype consensus oligonucleotide probes. With just two consensus probes for the coxsackievirus A9 (CVA9) serotype, we detected 23 out of 25 highly diverse CVA9 isolates. Overall, the assay involves several features aiming at ease of performance, robustness, and applicability to large-scale studies.
Hybridization of nucleic acids on solid surfaces is a key process involved in high-throughput technologies such as microarrays and, in some cases, next-generation sequencing (NGS). A physical understanding of the hybridization process helps to determine the accuracy of these technologies. The goal of a widespread research program is to develop reliable transformations between the raw signals reported by the technologies and individual molecular concentrations from an ensemble of nucleic acids. This research has inputs from many areas, from bioinformatics and biostatistics, to theoretical and experimental biochemistry and biophysics, to computer simulations. A group of leading researchers met in Ploen Germany in 2011 to discuss present knowledge and limitations of our physico-chemical understanding of high-throughput nucleic acid technologies. This meeting inspired us to write this summary, which provides an overview of the state-of-the-art approaches based on physico-chemical foundation to modeling of the nucleic acids hybridization process on solid surfaces. In addition, practical application of current knowledge is emphasized.
Direct isolation of nucleic acids from the environment may be useful in several respects, including the estimation of total biomass, detection of specific organisms and genes, estimations of species diversity, and cloning applications. We have developed a method that facilitates the concentration of microorganisms from aquatic samples and the extraction of their nucleic acids. Natural water samples of 350 to greater than 1,000 ml are concentrated on a single cylindrical filter membrane (type SVGS01015; Millipore Corp., Bedford, Mass.), and cell lysis and proteolysis are carried out within the filter housing. Crude, high-molecular-weight nucleic acid solutions are then drawn off the filter. These solutions can be immediately analyzed, concentrated, or purified, depending on the intended application. The method is simple, rapid, and economical and provides high-molecular-weight chromosomal DNA, plasmid DNA, and speciated RNAs which comigrate with 5S, 16S, and 23S rRNAs. The methods presented here should prove useful in studying both the ecology and the phylogeny of microbes that resist classical culture methods.
Human exposure to brevetoxins produced by the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, is an increasing public health concern. Using in vitro exposure of rat liver cells to brevetoxin B (PbTx-2), the primary toxin product of K. brevis, we previously showed that it formed C27,28-epoxy brevetoxin metabolites capable of covalently binding to nucleic acids, a common initiation step for carcinogenesis.
This study was undertaken to evaluate nucleic acid adduction in lung following in vitro and in vivo brevetoxin exposures.
To clarify reactions of brevetoxin epoxide with DNA, we analyzed reaction products of PbTx-6 (a C27,28 epoxide metabolite of brevetoxin B) with nucleosides. We also analyzed adducts from nucleic acid hydrolysates of isolated rat lung cells treated with PbTx-2 or PbTx-6 in vitro and lung tissue from rats after intratracheal exposure to PbTx-2 or PbTx-6 at 45 μg toxin/kg body weight.
Our results indicate that PbTx-2 forms DNA adducts with cytidine after treatment of isolated lung cells, and forms DNA adducts with adenosine and guanosine after intratracheal exposure.
These results are consistent with metabolic activation of highly reactive brevetoxin intermediates that bind to nucleic acid. These findings provide a basis for monitoring exposure and assessing the hazard associated with depurination of brevetoxin–nucleotide adducts in lung tissue.
brevetoxin; DNA adducts; epoxidation; harmful algal bloom; Karenia brevis; lung; metabolism
A new thermodynamic database for normal and modified nucleic
acids has been developed. This Thermodynamic Database for Nucleic
Acids (NTDB) includes sequence, structure and thermodynamic information
as well as experimental methods and conditions. In this release,
there are 1851 sequences containing both normal and modified nucleic
acids. A user-friendly web-based interface has been developed to
allow data searching under different conditions. Useful thermodynamic
tools for the study of nucleic acids have been collected and linked for
easy usage. NTDB is available at http://ntdb.chem.cuhk.edu.hk.
A major rate-limiting step in nonviral gene delivery is the entry of nucleic acids across various membrane barriers and eventually into the nucleus where it must be transcribed. Cell-penetrating peptides and proteins are employed to generate formulations that overcome these challenges to facilitate DNA delivery into cells efficiently. However, these are limited by their inability to deliver nucleic acids selectively due to lack of specificity because they deliver to both cancer and normal cells. In this study, through modular design, we generated a recombinant fusion protein designated as Her-nuclear localization sequence (Her-NLS), where heregulin-α (Her), a targeting moiety, was cloned in frame with cationic NLS peptide to obtain a cell-specific targeting biomolecule for nucleic acid delivery. The heregulin-α1 isoform possesses the epidermal growth factor-like domain and binds to HER2/3 heterodimers which are overexpressed in certain breast cancers. Purified recombinant Her-NLS fusion protein binds plasmid DNA and specifically transfects MDA-MB-453 cells overexpressing the epidermal growth factor receptors HER2/3 in vitro. The approach described would also permit replacement of heregulin ligand with other targeting moieties that would be suited to cell-specific nucleic acid delivery mediated via receptor-ligand interactions.
cell targeting; nucleic acid delivery; nuclear localization sequences; heregulin; transfection; HER2 receptors