Novel peptide-dendrimer/lipid/oligonucleotide ternary complexes for efficient cellular uptake and improved splice-switching activity

Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2018 Nov:132:29-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpb.2018.09.002. Epub 2018 Sep 4.


Despite the advances in gene therapy and in oligonucleotide (ON) chemistry, efficient cellular delivery remains an obstacle. Most current transfection reagents suffer from low efficacy or high cytotoxicity. In this report, we describe the synergism between lipid and dendrimer delivery vectors to enhance the transfection efficiency, while avoiding high toxicity. We screened a library of 20 peptide dendrimers representing three different generations and evaluated their capability to deliver a single-stranded splice-switching ON after formulating with lipids (DOTMA/DOPE). The transfection efficiency was analyzed in 5 reporter cell lines, in serum-free and serum conditions, and with 5 different formulation protocols. All formulations displayed low cytotoxicity to the majority of the tested cell lines. The complex sizes were < 200 nm; particle size distributions of effective mixtures were < 80 nm; and, the zeta potential was dependent on the formulation buffer used. The best dendrimer enhanced transfection in a HeLa reporter cell line by 30-fold compared to untreated cells under serum-free conditions. Interestingly, addition of sucrose to the formulation enabled - for the first time - peptide dendrimers/lipid complexes to efficiently deliver splice-switching ON in the presence of serum, reaching 40-fold increase in splice switching. Finally, in vivo studies highlighted the potential of these formulae to change the biodistribution pattern to be more towards the liver (90% of injected dose) compared to the kidneys (5% of injected dose) or to unformulated ON. This success encourages further development of peptide dendrimer complexes active in serum and future investigation of mechanisms behind the influence of additives on transfection efficacy.

Keywords: Delivery vectors; Gene therapy; Peptide dendrimers; Splice-switching oligonucleotides; Synergism; Transfection.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Dendrimers / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genes, Reporter / genetics
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Genetic Vectors / chemistry
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Lipids / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Oligonucleotides / administration & dosage*
  • Oligonucleotides / pharmacokinetics
  • Particle Size
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Transfection


  • Dendrimers
  • Lipids
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Peptides