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Extracellular vesicle (ECV)-modified polyethylenimine (PEI) complexes for enhanced siRNA delivery in vitro and in vivo

: Zhupanyn, Petro; Ewe, Alexander; Büch, Thomas; Malek, Anastasia; Rademacher, Phil; Müller, Claudia; Reinert, Anja; Jaimes, Yarúa; Aigner, Achim


Journal of controlled release 319 (2020), pp.63-76
ISSN: 0168-3659
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IZI ()
extracellular vesicle; Exosomes; Polyethylenimine; RNAi in vivo; siRNA transfection; therapeutic siRNA delivery

Extracellular vesicles (ECVs) are secreted cell-derived membrane particles involved in intercellular signaling and cell-cell communication. By transporting various bio-macromolecules, ECVs and in particular exosomes are relevant in various (patho-) physiological processes. ECVs are also released by cancer cells and can confer pro-tumorigenic effects. Their target cell tropism, effects on proliferation rates, natural stability in blood and immunotolerance makes ECVs particularly interesting as delivery vehicles. Polyethylenimines (PEIs) are linear or branched polymers which are capable of forming non-covalent complexes with small RNA molecules including siRNAs or antimiRs, for their delivery in vitro and in vivo. This study explores for the first time the combination of PEI-based nanoparticles with naturally occurring ECVs from different cell lines, for the delivery of small RNAs. ECV-modified PEI/siRNA complexes are analyzed by electron microscopy vs. ECV or complex alone. On the functional side, we demonstrate increased knockdown efficacy and storage stability of PEI/siRNA complexes upon their modification with ECVs. This is paralleled by enhanced tumor cell-inhibition by ECV-modified PEI/siRNA complexes targeting Survivin. Pre-treatment with various inhibitors of cellular internalization reveals alterations in cellular uptake mechanisms and biological activities of PEI/siRNA complexes upon their ECV modification. Extending our studies towards PEI-complexed antimiRs against miR-155 or miR-1246, dose-dependent cellular and molecular effects are enhanced in ECV-modified complexes, based on the de-repression of direct miRNA target genes. Differences between ECVs from different cell lines are observed regarding their capacity of enhancing PEI/siRNA efficacies, independent of the target cell line for transfection. Finally, an in vivo therapy study in mice bearing s.c. PC3 prostate carcinoma xenografts reveals marked inhibition of tumor growth upon treatment with ECVPC3-modified PEI/siSurvivin complexes, based on profound target gene knockdown. We conclude that ECV-modification enhances the activity of PEI-based complexes, by altering pivotal physicochemical and biological nanoparticle properties.