Development and in vitro validation of a targeted delivery vehicle for DNA vaccines

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Usage of DNA vaccination has been limited by inefficient cellular expression of plasmid constructs used in DNA vaccines. We describe a novel system for enhancing delivery of DNA vaccine plasmids into cells and their nuclei. This delivery system uses recombinant reovirus type 3 σ1 attachment protein genetically modified with a nuclear localization sequence (σ1-NLS) as a targeting ligand. Purified σ1-NLS was covalently conjugated to the polycation polyethyleneimine (PEI) using a carboxyl-reactive cross-linking agent and complexed with plasmid DNA. The benefit of the NLS in enhancement of protein delivery into the nucleus was demonstrated by liposome-mediated loading of cells with σ1 or σ1-NLS. In L929 fibroblasts loaded with σ1-NLS, 69% of the internalized protein was recovered in the nuclear fraction after 6 h compared to just 10% when using unmodified σ1. Transfection of L929 cells with σ1-NLS-conjugated PEI complexed with a luciferase expression plasmid resulted in a mean 16-fold increase in luciferase activity over complexes made with unmodified PEI, compared to a mean 3-fold boost obtained using σ1-conjugated PEI. These results suggest that σ1-NLS is a useful bifunctional targeting ligand suitable for enhancing DNA delivery and subsequent gene expression for both DNA vaccine applications and nonviral gene therapy.

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