Stability and cellular uptake of polymerized siRNA (poly-siRNA)/polyethylenimine (PEI) complexes for efficient gene silencing

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Small interfering RNA (siRNA) is a promising biological strategy for treatment of diverse diseases, but the therapeutic application of siRNA has been limited by its instability and poor cellular uptake efficiency. Although the development of various gene delivery systems has increased the siRNA delivery efficiency, many problems still remain to be resolved before the clinical application of siRNA. In this study, we suggest reducible polymerized siRNA a possible solution for low delivery efficiency of siRNA. Dithiol-modified red fluorescent protein (RFP) siRNAs at the 5′-ends of both sense and anti-sense strands were disulfide-polymerized. Polymerized siRNA (poly-siRNA) was composed of 30% oligomeric siRNA (50˜300 bps) and 66% polymeric siRNA (above ˜ 300 bps) as fractions, and was reducible in reducing solution through disulfide bond cleavage. Poly-siRNA formed more condensed and nano-sized complexes with low molecular weight polyethylenimine (PEI) by strong electrostatic interaction based on the higher charge density of poly-siRNA, compared with siRNA (mono-siRNA). The compact poly-siRNA/PEI complexes prevented the loss and degradation of siRNA from a polyanion competitor and RNases in serum. Furthermore, poly-siRNA/PEI complexes exhibited superior intracellular uptake by murine melanoma cells (B16F10), and was accompanied with RFP gene silencing efficiency of about 80%, compared to untreated cells. These results sufficiently support that strong polyanionic and reducible poly-siRNA can be utilized as a novel powerful therapeutic strategy for human diseases.Graphical abstractWe designed and synthesized polymerized siRNAs (poly-siRNAs), consisting a broad range of base pairs (50–300 bps and above 300 bps) through disulfide-polymerization of thiol groups at both ends of modified siRNA. It was confirmed that the polymerized siRNA /PEI complexes greatly enhanced the stability and cellular uptake of siRNA.

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