Preparation and Characterization of a Liver Targeted, Poly(amidoamine) Based, Gene Delivery System

Methods Mol Biol. 2022:2455:319-332. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-2128-8_24.


Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is an aggressive liver disease that is considered a major cause of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. NASH is characterized by multiple underlying genetic mutations, with no approved cure to date. Gene therapies that target those genetic mutations may play a major role in treating this disease, once delivered specifically to the hepatocytes. In this chapter we present, in detail, the synthesis and the characterization of an efficient gene delivery system capable of targeting hepatocytes by exploiting the overexpression of asialoglycoprotein receptors on their cell surface. The targeting ligand, galactose derivative, lactobionic acid (Gal), is first conjugated to bifunctional poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), and then the formed PEG-Gal is further conjugated to the positively charged polymer, poly(amidoamine) (PAMAM) to form a PAMAM-PEG-Gal construct that can complex and deliver genetic material (e.g., pDNA, siRNA, mRNA) specifically to hepatocytes. We first synthesize PAMAM-PEG-Gal using carbodiimide click chemistry. The synthesized conjugate is characterized using 1H NMR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Next, nanoplexes are prepared by combining the positively charged conjugate and the negatively charged genetic material at different nitrogen to phosphate (N/P) ratios; then the size, charge, electrophoretic mobility, and surface morphology of those nanoplexes are estimated. The simplicity of complexing our conjugate with any type of genetic material, the ability of our delivery system to overcome the current limitations of delivering naked genetic material, and the efficiency of delivering its payload specifically to hepatocytes, makes our formulation a promising tool to treat any type of genetic abnormality that arises in hepatocytes, and specifically NASH.

Keywords: Asialoglycoprotein; Click chemistry; EDC; Galactose; Gene therapy; Liver; N/P ratio; NHS; Nanoplex; PAMAM; Poly(amidoamine); Targeting.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Polyamines / chemistry
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry


  • Poly(amidoamine)
  • Polyamines
  • Polyethylene Glycols