Detailed cellular assessment of albumin-bound oligonucleotides: Increased stability and lower non-specific cell uptake

J Control Release. 2020 Aug 10:324:34-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2020.04.020. Epub 2020 Apr 21.


Conjugation of lipid moieties to nucleic-acid therapeutics increases their interaction with cellular membranes, enhances their uptake and influences in vivo distribution. Once injected in biological fluids, such modifications trigger the binding of various serum proteins, which in turn play a major role in determining the fate of oligonucleotides. Yet, the role played by each of these proteins, more than 300 in serum, remains to be elucidated. Albumin, the most abundant circulating protein is an attractive candidate to study, as it was previously used to enhance the therapeutic effect of various drugs. Herein, we present a thorough fluorescent-based methodology to study the effect of strong and specific albumin-binding on the fate and cellular uptake of DNA oligonucleotides. We synthesized a library of molecules that exhibit non-covalent binding to albumin, with affinities ranging from high (nanomolar) to none. Our results revealed that strong albumin binding can be used as a strategy to reduce degradation of oligonucleotides in physiological conditions caused by enzymes (nucleases), to reduce uptake and degradation by immune cells (macrophages) and to prevent non-specific uptake by cells. We believe that introducing protein-binding domains in oligonucleotides can be used as a strategy to control the fate of oligonucleotides in physiological environments. While our study focuses on albumin, we believe that such systematic studies, which elucidate the role of serum proteins systematically, will ultimately provide a toolbox to engineer the next-generation of therapeutic oligonucleotides, overcoming many of the barriers encountered by these therapeutics, such as stability, immunogenicity and off-target effects.

Keywords: Albumin; Lipid; Nucleic acid therapeutics delivery; Oligonucleotides; Protein corona; Serum proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Albumins*
  • Blood Proteins
  • DNA
  • Lipids
  • Oligonucleotides*


  • Albumins
  • Blood Proteins
  • Lipids
  • Oligonucleotides
  • DNA

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