RNA interference (RNAi) has the potential to reversibly silence any gene with high efficiency and specificity. To fulfill the clinical potential of RNAi, delivery vehicles are required to transport the short interfering RNA (siRNA) to the site of action in the cells of target tissues. Here, we describe the features of novel liver-targeted siRNA nanoparticles (NPs), co-assembled due to the complexation of alginate sulfate (AlgS) with siRNA, mediated by calcium ions bridges (AlgS–Ca2+-siRNA NPs) and then bioconjugation of a targeting ligand onto the AlgS upon the NP surface. To gain insight into the complexation process and confirm AlgS accessibility on NP surface, we investigated different schemes for fabrication. All resulting NPs, independently of the component addition order, were of average size of 130–150 nm, had surface charge of <− 10 mV, exhibited a similar atomic composition on their surface, were efficiently uptaken by HepG2 cells and induced approx. ~ 90% silencing of STAT3 gene. Ca2+ and AlgS concentrations in NPs affected cell uptake and gene silencing. Bioconjugation of N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc), a ligand to the asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGPR) overexpressed on hepatocytes, was validated by XPS analysis and cell uptake by receptor-mediated mechanism. After intravenous (i.v.) injection to BALB/c mice, GalNAc-NPs were targeted to liver by a factor of ~ 3 with lesser renal clearance compared to non-targeted NPs. We foresee that the combined advantages of site-specific targeting and reversibility of the tri-component NPs as well as the simplicity of their fabrication make them an attractive system for targeted delivery of siRNA.
- Gene silencing
- Liver targeting