Bioreducible polyethylenimine core–shell nanostructures as efficient and non-toxic gene and drug delivery vectors

Low molecular weight branched polyethylenimine (LMW bPEIs 1.8 kDa) have received considerable attention for the fabrication of nucleic acid carriers due to their biocompatible and non-toxic nature. However, due to the inadequate nucleic acid complexation ability and transportation across the cell membrane, these show poor transfection efficacy, limiting their clinical applications. Therefore, to overcome these challenges, in this study, we have grafted bPEI 1.8 kDa with a disulfide bond containing hydrophobic moiety, 3-(2-pyridyldithio) propionic acid (PDPA), via amide linkages through EDC/NHS-mediated coupling to obtain N-[3-(2-pyridyldithio)] propionoyl polyethylenimine (PDPP) conjugates. The best formulation for nucleic acid transfection was evaluated after preparing a series of PDPP conjugates by varying the amount of PDPA. In an aqueous environment, these PDPP conjugates self-assembled to form spherical shaped core–shell PDPP nanostructures with size ranging from ?188–307 nm and zeta-potential from ? +3 to +19 mV. The positively charged surface of the core–shell nanocomposites helps in the binding of plasmid DNA (pDNA), its transportation inside the cell, and protection against enzymes. Evaluation of PDPP/pDNA complexes on mammalian cells revealed that all these complexes showed significantly improved transfection efficacy without hampering cytocompatibility. Amongst all, the pDNA complex of PDPP-2 exhibited the best transfection efficiency (i.e. >6-fold) in comparison to pDNA complex of the native bPEI. The nanocomposites exhibited the redox responsive behavior advantageous for therapeutic delivery to the tumor cells. The core of the nanostructures facilitate the encapsulation of a hydrophobic model drug, ornidazole. In vitro drug release analysis showed a faster release rate in response to a reductant mimicking the cellular environment. Altogether, these nanostructures have great potential to co-deliver both drug and gene simultaneously in response to tumor cell reductive microenvironment in vitro and could be used as the next-generation delivery system.

» Author: H. Jena, Z. Ahmadi, P. Kumar, G. Dhawan

» Publication Date: 01/09/2022

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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº 768737


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