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Incorporation of a Nuclear Localization Signal in pH Responsive LAH4-L1 Peptide Enhances Transfection and Nuclear Uptake of Plasmid DNA

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Yingying Xu, Wanling Liang, Yingshan Qiu, Marco Cespi, Giovanni Palmieri, Andrew James Mason, Jenny Lam

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Early online date26 Jul 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jul 2016


King's Authors


The major intracellular barriers associated with DNA delivery using nonviral vectors are inefficient endosomal/lysosomal escape and poor nuclear uptake. LAH4-L1, a pH responsive cationic amphipathic peptide, is an efficient DNA delivery vector that promotes the release of nucleic acid into cytoplasm through endosomal escape. Here we further enhance the DNA transfection efficiency of LAH4-L1 by incorporating nuclear localizing signal (NLS) to promote nuclear importation. Four NLSs were investigated: Simian virus 40 (SV40) large T-antigen derived NLS, nucleoplasmin targeting signal, M9 sequence, and the reverse SV40
derived NLS. All peptides tested were able to form positively charged nanosized complexes with DNA. Significant improvement in DNA transfection was observed in slow-dividing epithelial cancer cells (Calu-3), macrophages (RAW264.7), dendritic cells (JAWSII), and thymidineinduced growth-arrested cells, but not in rapidly dividing cells (A549). Among the four NLS-modified peptides, PK1 (modified with SV40 derived NLS) and PK2 (modified with reverse SV40 derived NLS) were the most consistent in improving DNA transfection; up to a 10-fold increase in gene expression was observed for PK1 and PK2 over the unmodified LAH4-L1. Additionally PK1 and PK2 were shown to enhance cellular uptake as well as nuclear entry of DNA. Overall, we show that the incorporation of SV40 derived NLS, in particular, to LAH4-L1 is a promising strategy to improve DNA delivery efficiency in slow-dividing cells and dendritic cells, with development potential for in vivo applications and as a DNA vaccine carrier.

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