Design of PEI-conjugated bio-reducible polymer for efficient gene delivery

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The poly(cystaminebis(acrylamide)-diaminohexane) (poly(CBA-DAH)) was designed previously as a bio-reducible efficient gene delivery carrier. However, the high weight ratio required to form the polyplexes between poly(CBA-DAH) with pDNA is still a problem that needs to be addressed. To solve this problem and increase the transfection efficiency, poly(ethylenimine) (PEI, 1.8kDa) was conjugated to poly(CBA-DAH) via disulfide bond. The PEI conjugated poly(CBA-DAH) (PCDP) can bind with pDNA at a very low weight ratio of 0.5 and above, like PEI 25kDa, and form the polyplexes with nano-size (102–128nm) and positive surface charge (27–34mV). PCDP and PCDP polyplexes had negligible cytotoxicity and indicated similar or better cellular uptake than the comparison groups such as PEI 25kDa and Lipofectamine® polyplexes. To confirm the transfection efficiency, the plasmid DNA (pDNA) encoded with the luciferase reporter gene (gWiz-Luc) and green fluorescent protein reporter gene (GFP) were used and treated with PCDP into the A549, Huh-7, and Mia PaCa-2 cells. PCDP/pDNA polyplexes showed highest transfection efficiency in all tested cell lines. In the luciferase assay, PCDP polyplexes showed 10.2 times higher gene transfection efficiency than Lipofectamine® polyplexes in mimic in vivo conditions (30% FBS, A549 cells). The VEGF siRNA expressing plasmid (pshVEGF), which is constructed as a therapeutic gene by our previous work, was delivered by PCDP into the cancer cells. The VEGF gene expression of PCDP/pshVEGF polyplexes was dramatically lower than control and the VEGF gene silencing efficiencies of PCDP/pshVEGF (w/w; 10/1) polyplexes were 54% (A549 cells), 77% (Huh-7 cells), and 66% (Mia PaCa-2 cells). In addition, PCDP/pshVEGF had reduced cell viability rates of about 31% (A549 cells), 39% (Huh-7 cells), and 42% (Mia PaCa-2 cells) and showed better results than all comparison groups. In the transfection efficiency and VEGF silencing assay, PCDP polyplexes showed better results than poly(CBA-DAH) at 4-fold lower weight ratio. The data of all experiments demonstrate that the synthesized PCDP could be used for efficient gene delivery and could be widely applied.

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