Assembly of therapeutic pRNA-siRNA nanoparticles using bipartite approach

Mol Ther. 2011 Jul;19(7):1304-11. doi: 10.1038/mt.2011.23. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


The 117-nucleotide (nt) RNA, called the packaging RNA (pRNA) of bacteriophage phi29 DNA packaging motor, has been shown to be an efficient vector for the construction of RNA nanoparticles for the delivery of small interfering RNA (siRNA) into specific cancer or viral-infected cells. Currently, chemical synthesis of 117-nt RNA is not feasible commercially. In addition, labeling at specific locations on pRNA requires the understanding of its modular organization. Here, we report multiple approaches for the construction of a functional 117-base pRNA using two synthetic RNA fragments with variable modifications. The resulting bipartite pRNA was fully competent in associating with other interacting pRNAs to form dimers, as demonstrated by the packaging of DNA via the nanomotor and the assembly of phi29 viruses in vitro. The pRNA subunit assembled from bipartite fragments harboring siRNA or receptor-binding ligands were equally competent in assembling into dimers. The subunits carrying different functionalities were able to bind cancer cells specifically, enter the cell, and silence specific genes of interest. The pRNA nanoparticles were subsequently processed by Dicer to release the siRNA embedded within the nanoparticles. The results will pave the way toward the treatment of diseases using synthetic pRNA/siRNA chimeric nanoparticles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Silencing / physiology
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / chemistry*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA