Integrating Combinatorial Lipid Nanoparticle and Chemically Modified Protein for Intracellular Delivery and Genome Editing

Acc Chem Res. 2019 Mar 19;52(3):665-675. doi: 10.1021/acs.accounts.8b00493. Epub 2018 Dec 26.


The use of protein to precisely manipulate cell signaling is an effective approach for controlling cell fate and developing precision medicine. More recently, programmable nucleases, such as CRISPR/Cas9, have shown extremely high potency for editing genetic flow of mammalian cells, and for treating genetic disorders. The therapeutic potential of proteins with an intracellular target, however, is mostly challenged by their low cell impermeability. Therefore, a developing delivery system to transport protein to the site of action in a spatiotemporal controlled manner is of great importance to expand the therapeutic index of the protein. In this Account, we first summarize our most recent advances in designing combinatorial lipid nanoparticles with diverse chemical structures for intracellular protein delivery. By designing parallel Michael addition or ring-opening reaction of aliphatic amines, we have generated a combinatorial library of cationic lipids, and identified several leading nanoparticle formulations for intracellular protein delivery both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, we optimized the chemical structure of lipids to control lipid degradation and protein release inside cells for CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing protein delivery. In the second part of this Account, we survey our recent endeavor in developing a chemical approach to modify protein, in particular, coupled with the nanoparticle delivery platform, to improve protein delivery for targeted diseases treatment and genome editing. Chemical modification of protein is a useful tool to modulate protein function and to improve the therapeutic index of protein drugs. Herein, we mostly summarize our recent advances on designing chemical approaches to modify protein with following unique findings: (1) chemically modified protein shows selective turn-on activity based on the specific intracellular microenvironment, with which we were able to protein-based targeted cancer therapy; (2) the conjugation of hyaluronic acid (HA) to protein allows cancer cell surface receptor-targeted delivery of protein; (3) the introduction of nonpeptidic boronic acid into protein enabled cell nucleus targeted delivery; this is the first report that a nonpeptidic signal can direct protein to subcellular compartment; and (4) the fusion of protein with negatively supercharged green fluorescent protein (GFP) facilitates the self-assembly of protein with lipid nanoparticle for genome-editing protein delivery. At the end of the Account, we give a perspective of expanding the chemistry that could be integrated to design biocompatible lipid nanocarriers for protein delivery and genome editing in vitro and in vivo, as well as the chemical approaches that we can harness to modulate protein activity in live cells for targeted diseases treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / genetics
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / metabolism
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry*
  • Gene Editing / methods
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Humans
  • Lipids / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats


  • Drug Carriers
  • Lipids
  • Proteins
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9