Highly specific delivery of siRNA to hepatocytes circumvents endothelial cell-mediated lipid nanoparticle-associated toxicity leading to the safe and efficacious decrease in the hepatitis B virus
Lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) are the leading technology for delivering short interfering RNA (siRNA) in vivo. While numerous attempts to improve the efficiency of siRNA delivery have been reported, only a few studies of the mechanism of LNP-mediated toxicity and attempts to develop safe LNPs in vivo have been reported, in spite of the significance of such systems, in the light of treatment and clinical applications. We herein report on the elucidation of the mechanism of hepatotoxicity following the intravenous injection of a high dose of hepatotropic LNPs. The LNPs accumulated in liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs), resulting in their activation and the induction of several cytokines related to neutrophils, followed by neutrophilic inflammation. To circumvent this toxic cascade, the LNPs were modified with a hepatocyte-specific ligand, N-acetyl-d-galactosamine (GalNAc), which resulted in a substantial improvement of hepatocyte-specificity and in a dramatic reduction in toxicity. Moreover, modification of the GalNAc-LNPs with polyethyleneglycol abrogated the LNP-associated toxicity without any detectable loss of gene silencing activity in hepatocytes. Finally, we observed that a single injection of the LNPs resulted in a significant reduction of hepatitis B virus (HBV) genomic DNA and their antigens without any sign of toxicity in chimeric mice with humanized livers that had been persistently infected with HBV. These lines of the fact suggest that the newly designed siRNA-loaded LNPs promise to be a useful technology for the treatment of liver diseases.