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Krhač Levačić, Ana; Berger, Simone; Mueller, Judith; Wegner, Andrea; Lächelt, Ulrich; Dohmen, Christian; Rudolph, Carsten and Wagner, Ernst (2021): Dynamic mRNA polyplexes benefit from bioreducible cleavage sites for in vitro and in vivo transfer. In: Journal of Controlled Release, Vol. 339: pp. 27-40

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Currently, messenger RNA (mRNA)-based lipid nanoparticle formulations revolutionize the clinical field. Cationic polymer-based complexes (polyplexes) represent an alternative compound class for mRNA delivery. After establishing branched polyethylenimine with a succinylation degree of 10% (succPEI) as highly effective positive mRNA transfection standard, a diverse library of PEI-like peptides termed sequence-defined oligoaminoamides (OAAs) was screened for mRNA delivery. Notably, sequences, which had previously been identified as potent plasmid DNA (pDNA) or small-interfering RNA (siRNA) carriers, displayed only moderate mRNA transfection activity. A second round of screening combined the cationizable building block succinoyl tetraethylene pentamine and histidines for endosomal buffering, tyrosine tripeptides and various fatty acids for mRNA polyplex stabilization, as well as redox-sensitive units for programmed intracellular release. For the tested OAA carriers, balancing of extracellular stability, endosomal lytic activity, and intracellular release capability was found to be of utmost importance for optimum mRNA transfection efficiency. OAAs with T-shape topology containing two oleic acids as well-stabilizing fatty acids, attached via a dynamic bioreducible building block, displayed superior activity with up to 1000-fold increased transfection efficiency compared to their non reducible analogs. In the absence of the dynamic linkage, incorporation of shorter less stabilizing fatty acids could only partly compensate for mRNA delivery. Highest GFP expression and the largest fraction of transfected cells (96%) could be detected for the bioreducible OAA with incorporated histidines and a dioleoyl motif, outperforming all other tested carriers as well as the positive control succPEI. The good in vitro performance of the dynamic lead structure was verified in vivo upon intratracheal administration of mRNA complexes in mice.

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