One-pot, degradable, silica nanocarriers with encapsulated oligonucleotides for mitochondrial specific targeting

Chloe Trayford 1, Alissa Wilhalm 1 2, Pamela Habibovic 1, Hubert Smeets 2, Florence van Tienen 3, Sabine van Rijt 4

Published: December 2023

Mutations in nuclear and mitochondrial genes are responsible for severe chronic disorders such as mitochondrial myopathies. Gene therapy using antisense oligonucleotides is a promising strategy to treat mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) diseases by blocking the replication of the mutated mtDNA. However, transport vehicles are needed for intracellular, mitochondria-specific transport of oligonucleotides. Nanoparticle (NP) based vectors such as large pore mesoporous silica nanoparticles (LP) often rely on surface complexation of oligonucleotides exposing them to nucleases and limiting mitochondria targeting and controlled release ability. In this work, stable, fluorescent, hollow silica nanoparticles (HSN) that encapsulate and protect oligonucleotides in the hollow core were synthesized by a facile one-pot procedure. Both rhodamine B isothiocyanate and bis[3-(triethoxysilyl)propyl]tetrasulfide were incorporated in the HSN matrix by co-condensation to enable cell tracing, intracellular-specific degradation and controlled oligonucleotide release. We also synthesized LP as a benchmark to compare the oligonucleotide loading and release efficacy of our HSN. Mitochondria targeting was enabled by NP functionalization with cationic, lipophilic Triphenylphosphine (TPP) and, for the first time a fusogenic liposome based carrier, previously reported under the name MITO-Porter. HSN exhibited high oligonucleotide incorporation ratios and release dependent on intracellular degradation. Further, MITO-Porter capping of our NP enabled delayed, glutathione (GSH) responsive oligonucleotide release and mitochondria targeting at the same efficiency as TPP functionalized NP. Overall, our NP are promising vectors for anti-gene therapy of mtDNA disease as well as many other monogenic disorders worldwide.

Keywords: Anti-gene therapy; Hollow silica nanoparticles; Intracellular degradation; Large pore silica nanoparticles; Mitochondria targeting.

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