Hydrolytically degrading nano-polyplexes (HDG-NPs) that reverse charge through conversion of tertiary amines to carboxylic acids were investigated to improve intracellular un-packaging of siRNA and target gene silencing compared to a non-degradable analog (non-HDG-NPs). Both NP types comprised reversible addition-fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) synthesized diblock copolymers of a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) corona-forming block and a cationic block for nucleic acid packaging that incorporated butyl methacrylate (BMA) and either dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate (DMAEMA, non-HDG-NPs) or dimethylaminoethyl acrylate (DMAEA, HDG-NPs). HDG-NPs decreased significantly in size and released significantly more siRNA (∼40%) than non-HDG-NPs after 24 h in aqueous solution. While both HDG-NPs and non-HDG-NPs had comparable uptake and cytotoxicity up to 150 nM siRNA doses, HDG-NPs achieved significantly higher target gene silencing of the model gene luciferase in vitro. High resolution FRET confocal microscopy was used to monitor the intracellular un-packaging of siRNA. Non-HDG-NPs had significantly higher FRET efficiency than HDG-NPs, indicating that siRNA delivered from HDG-NPs was more fully un-packaged and therefore had improved intracellular bioavailability.
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.