Cellular uptake of therapeutic oligonucleotides and subsequent intracellular trafficking to their target sites represents the major technical hurdle for the biological effectiveness of these potential drugs. Accordingly, laboratories worldwide focus on the development of suitable delivery systems. Among the different available non-viral systems like cationic polymers, cationic liposomes and polymeric nanoparticles, cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) represent an attractive concept to bypass the problem of poor membrane permeability of these charged macromolecules. While uptake per se in most cases does not represent the main obstacle of nucleic acid delivery in vitro, it becomes increasingly apparent that intracellular trafficking is the bottleneck. As a consequence, in order to optimize a given delivery system, a side-by-side analysis of nucleic acid cargo internalized and the corresponding biological effect is required to determine the overall efficacy. In this review, we will concentrate on peptide-mediated delivery of siRNAs and steric block oligonucleotides and discuss different methods for quantitative assessment of the amount of cargo taken up and how to correlate those numbers with biological effects by applying easy to handle reporter systems. To illustrate current limitations of non-viral nucleic acid delivery systems, we present own data as an example and discuss options of how to enhance trafficking of molecules entrapped in cellular compartments.
Keywords: Cell-Penetrating Peptides (CPPs), nucleic acid delivery, endocytosis, fluorescence microscopy, RNAi, siRNA, steric block, splice correction
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