Novel Orthogonally Hydrocarbon-Modified Cell-Penetrating Peptide Nanoparticles Mediate Efficient Delivery of Splice-Switching Antisense Oligonucleotides In Vitro and In Vivo

Biomedicines. 2021 Aug 19;9(8):1046. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9081046.


Splice-switching therapy with splice-switching oligonucleotides (SSOs) has recently proven to be a clinically applicable strategy for the treatment of several mis-splice disorders. Despite this, wider application of SSOs is severely limited by the inherently poor bioavailability of SSO-based therapeutic compounds. Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) are a class of drug delivery systems (DDSs) that have recently gained considerable attention for improving the uptake of various oligonucleotide (ON)-based compounds, including SSOs. One strategy that has been successfully applied to develop effective CPP vectors is the introduction of various lipid modifications into the peptide. Here, we repurpose hydrocarbon-modified amino acids used in peptide stapling for the orthogonal introduction of hydrophobic modifications into the CPP structure during peptide synthesis. Our data show that α,α-disubstituted alkenyl-alanines can be successfully utilized to introduce hydrophobic modifications into CPPs to improve their ability to formulate SSOs into nanoparticles (NPs), and to mediate high delivery efficacy and tolerability both in vitro and in vivo. Conclusively, our results offer a new flexible approach for the sequence-specific introduction of hydrophobicity into the structure of CPPs and for improving their delivery properties.

Keywords: cell-penetrating peptides; cellular uptake; endocytosis; oligonucleotide delivery; splice-switching oligonucleotides.