Intracellular trafficking of hybrid gene delivery vectors

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Viral and non-viral gene delivery vectors are in development for human gene therapy, but both exhibit disadvantages such as inadequate efficiency, lack of cell-specific targeting or safety concerns. We have recently reported the design of hybrid delivery vectors combining retrovirus-like particles with synthetic polymers or lipids that are efficient, provide sustained gene expression and are more stable compared to native retroviruses. To guide further development of this promising class of gene delivery vectors, we have investigated their mechanisms of intracellular trafficking. Moloney murine leukemia virus-like particles (M-VLPs) were complexed with chitosan (Chi) or liposomes (Lip) comprising DOTAP, DOPE and cholesterol to form the hybrid vectors (Chi/M-VLPs and Lip/M-VLPs, respectively). Transfection efficiency and cellular internalization of the vectors were quantified in the presence of a panel of inhibitors of various endocytic pathways. Intracellular transport and trafficking kinetics of the hybrid vectors were dependent on the synthetic component and used a combination of clathrin- and caveolar-dependent endocytosis and macropinocytosis. Chi/M-VLPs were slower to transfect compared to Lip/M-VLPs due to the delayed detachment of the synthetic component. The synthetic component of hybrid gene delivery vectors plays a significant role in their cellular interactions and processing and is a key parameter for the design of more efficient gene delivery vehicles.

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