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Enhancing Polysaccharide-Mediated Delivery of Nucleic Acids Through Functionalization with Secondary and Tertiary Amines

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Chitosan is a polysaccharide that has generated significant interest as a non-viral gene delivery vehicle due to its cationic and biocompatible characteristics. However, transfection efficiency of chitosan is significantly lower compared to other cationic gene delivery agents, e.g. polyethyleneimine (PEI), dendrimers or cationic lipids. This is primarily attributed to its minimal solubility and low buffering capacity at physiological pH leading to poor endosomal escape of the gene carrier and inefficient cytoplasmic decoupling of the complexed nucleic acid. Here we have developed an imidazole acetic acid (IAA)-modified chitosan to introduce secondary and tertiary amines to the polymer in order to improve its endosomal buffering and solubility. The modified polymer was characterized by ninhydrin and 1H NMR assays for degree of modification, while buffering and solubility were analyzed by acid titration. Nanocomplex formation, studied at various polymer-nucleic acid ratios, showed an increase in particle zeta potential for chitosan-IAA, as well as an increase in the effective diameter. Up to 100-fold increase in transfection efficiency of pDNA was seen for chitosan-IAA as compared to native chitosan, nearly matching that of PEI. In addition, transfection of siRNA by the modified polymers showed efficient gene knockdown equivalent to commercially available siPORT Amines. Collectively, these results demonstrate the potential of the imidazole-grafted chitosan as a biocompatible and effective delivery vehicle for both pDNA and siRNA.
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Keywords: Chitosan; biocompatible; gene therapy; imidazole; non-viral gene delivery; plasmid DNA; polycation; siRNA

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biomedical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, ENS 610, C0800, 1 University Station, Austin, Texas 78712.

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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