Nucleophile responsive charge-reversing polycations for pDNA transfection

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Polycationic carriers promise low cost and scalable gene therapy treatments, however inefficient intracellular unpacking of the genetic cargo has limited transfection efficiency. Charge-reversing polycations, which transition from cationic to neutral or negative charge, can offer targeted intracellular DNA release. We describe a new class of charge-reversing polycation which undergoes a cationic-to-neutral conversion by a reaction with cellular nucleophiles. The deionization reaction is relatively slow with primary amines, and much faster with thiols. In mammalian cells, the intracellular environment has elevated concentrations of amino acids (∼10×) and the thiol glutathione (∼1000×). We propose this allows for decationization of the polymeric carrier slowly in the extracellular space and then rapidly in the intracellular milleu for DNA release. We demonstrate that in a lipopolyplex formulation this leads to both improved transfection and reduced cytotoxicity when compared to a non-responsive polycationic control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1591-1601
Number of pages11
JournalPolymer Chemistry
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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