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Feldmann, Daniel P.; Cheng, Yilong; Kandil, Rima; Xie, Yuran; Mohammadi, Mariam; Harz, Hartmann; Sharma, Akhil; Peeler, David J.; Moszczynska, Anna; Leonhardt, Heinrich; Pun, Suzie H.; Merkel, Olivia M. (2018): In vitro and in vivo delivery of siRNA via VIPER polymer system to lung cells. In: Journal of Controlled Release, Vol. 276: pp. 50-58
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Abstract

The block copolymer VIPER (virus-inspired polymer for endosomal release) has been reported to be a promising novel delivery system of DNA plasmids both in vitro and in vivo. VIPER is comprised of a polycation segment for condensation of nucleic acids as well as a pH-sensitive segment that exposes the membrane lytic peptide melittin in acidic environments to facilitate endosomal escape. The objective of this study was to investigate VIPER/siRNA polyplex characteristics, and compare their in vitro and in vivo performance with commercially available transfection reagents and a control version of VIPER lacking melittin. VIPER/siRNA polyplexes were formulated and characterized at various charge ratios and shown to be efficiently internalized in cultured cells. Target mRNA knockdown was confirmed by both flow cytometry and qRT-PCR and the kinetics of knockdown was monitored by live cell spinning disk microscopy, revealing knockdown starting by 4 h post-delivery. Intratracheal instillation of VIPER particles formulated with sequence specific siRNA to the lung of mice resulted in a significantly more efficient knockdown of GAPDH compared to treatment with VIPER particles formulated with scrambled sequence siRNA. We also demonstrated using pH-sensitive labels that VIPER particles experience less acidic environments compared to control polyplexes. In summary, VIPER/siRNA polyplexes efficiently deliver siRNA in vivo resulting in robust gene silencing (> 75% knockdown) within the lung.