Dual carrier-cargo hydrophobization and charge ratio optimization improve the systemic circulation and safety of zwitterionic nano-polyplexes

Meredith A. Jackson, Sean K. Bedingfield, Fang Yu, Mitchell E. Stokan, Rachel E. Miles, Elizabeth J. Curvino, Ella N. Hoogenboezem, Rachel H. Bonami, Shrusti S. Patel, Peggy L. Kendall, Todd D. Giorgio, Craig L. Duvall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


While polymeric nano-formulations for RNAi therapeutics hold great promise for molecularly-targeted, personalized medicine, they possess significant systemic delivery challenges including rapid clearance from circulation and the potential for carrier-associated toxicity due to cationic polymer or lipid components. Herein, we evaluated the in vivo pharmacokinetic and safety impact of often-overlooked formulation parameters, including the ratio of carrier polymer to cargo siRNA and hydrophobic siRNA modification in combination with hydrophobic polymer components (dual hydrophobization). For these studies, we used nano-polyplexes (NPs) with well-shielded, zwitterionic coronas, resulting in various NP formulations of equivalent hydrodynamic size and neutral surface charge regardless of charge ratio. Doubling nano-polyplex charge ratio from 10 to 20 increased circulation half-life five-fold and pharmacokinetic area under the curve four-fold, but was also associated with increased liver enzymes, a marker of hepatic damage. Dual hydrophobization achieved by formulating NPs with palmitic acid-modified siRNA (siPA-NPs) both reduced the amount of carrier polymer required to achieve optimal pharmacokinetic profiles and abrogated liver toxicities. We also show that optimized zwitterionic siPA-NPs are well-tolerated upon long-term, repeated administration in mice and exhibit greater than two-fold increased uptake in orthotopic MDA-MB-231 xenografts compared to commercial transfection reagent, in vivo-jetPEI®. These data suggest that charge ratio optimization has important in vivo implications and that dual hydrophobization strategies can be used to maximize both NP circulation time and safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-259
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Drug delivery
  • Dual hydrophobization
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • RNA interference
  • Toxicology
  • Zwitterionic polyplexes


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