Silica nanoparticles and polyethyleneimine (PEI)-mediated functionalization: A new method of pei covalent attachment for siRNA delivery applications

Yekaterina Kapilov Buchman, Emmanuel Lellouche, Sally Zigdon, Moshe Bechor, Shulamit Michaeli, Jean Paul Lellouche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Small-interfering RNA (siRNA) is a synthetic double-stranded RNA that consists of approximately 21 nucleotides (nts). It induces degradation of target mRNAs in a sequence-specific manner by the RNA interference (RNAi) mechanism. Thus, siRNAs offer a potential strategy for silencing mutated or defective genes that cause a variety of human diseases. The main obstacles of harnessing siRNAs as drugs are their inefficient delivery to cells and off-target effect making clinical applications very challenging. To address these issues, researchers have studied a variety of nanocarrier systems for siRNA delivery. This study presents the design, fabrication, and full characterization of innovative polyethyleneimine (PEI)-decorated polycationic 34.2 ± 4.2 nm silica (SiO2) NPs for siRNA-mediated gene silencing. More specifically, a new means of introduction (covalent mode of attachment) of the polycationic 25 kDa PEI polymer onto the SiO2 NP surface has been developed that makes use of an effective electrophilic double Michäel acceptor, divinyl sulfone (DVS). The resulting novel SiO2-PEI nanoparticles (SPEI NPs) have been fully characterized using a wide range of analytical, spectroscopic, and microscopic methods (TEM, DLS, ζ potential, elemental analysis (EA), XPS, TGA, and FTIR). Disclosing quite low cytotoxicity due to this unique mode of PEI covalent grafting, SPEI NPs/siRNA polyplexes have been successfully tested for the induction of gene silencing using dual-reporter luciferase transfected human osteosarcoma U2OS cells. The corresponding gene silencing data showed a clear correlation between PEI/siRNA ratios, siRNA concentration(s), and the level of gene silencing. Moreover, these SPEI NPs have been demonstrated to be thermodynamically stable with an ability to efficiently bind siRNAs and induce silencing for at least a one-year-long storage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2076-2087
Number of pages12
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - 18 Dec 2013


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