Calcium condensed cell penetrating peptide complexes offer highly efficient, low toxicity gene silencing

Int J Pharm. 2012 May 1;427(1):134-42. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpharm.2011.08.012. Epub 2011 Aug 12.


The development of short-interfering RNA (siRNA) offers new strategies for manipulating specific genes responsible for pathological disorders. Myriad cationic polymer and lipid formulations have been explored, but an effective, non-toxic carrier remains a major barrier to clinical translation. Among the emerging candidates for siRNA carriers are cell penetrating peptides (CPPs), which can traverse the plasma membrane and facilitate the intracellular delivery of siRNA. Previously, a highly efficient and non-cytotoxic means of gene delivery was designed by complexing plasmid DNA with CPPs, then condensing with calcium. Here, the CPP TAT and a longer, 'double' TAT (dTAT) were investigated as potential carriers for siRNA. Various N/P ratios and calcium concentrations were used to optimize siRNA complexes in vitro. Upon addition of calcium, 'loose' siRNA/CPP complexes were condensed into small nanoparticles. Knockdown of luciferase expression in the human epithelial lung cell line A549-luc-C8 was high (up to 93%) with no evidence of cytotoxicity. Selected formulations of the dTAT complexes were dosed intravenously up to 1000 mg/kg with minimal toxicity. Biodistribution studies revealed high levels of gene knockdown in the lung and muscle tissue suggesting these simple vectors may offer a translatable approach to siRNA delivery.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Cell Line
  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides / administration & dosage
  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides / chemistry*
  • Drug Carriers / administration & dosage
  • Drug Carriers / adverse effects
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry*
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Luciferases
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • RNA, Small Interfering / administration & dosage*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / chemistry
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides
  • Drug Carriers
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Luciferases
  • Calcium