Back to Journals » International Journal of Nanomedicine » Volume 12

Enhancing siRNA-based cancer therapy using a new pH-responsive activatable cell-penetrating peptide-modified liposomal system

Authors Xiang B, Jia XL, Qi JL, Yang LP, Sun WH, Yan X, Yang SK, Cao DY, Du Q, Qi XR

Received 6 December 2016

Accepted for publication 28 February 2017

Published 28 March 2017 Volume 2017:12 Pages 2385—2405


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Lei Yang

Bai Xiang,1,* Xue-Li Jia,1,* Jin-Long Qi,2 Li-Ping Yang,1 Wei-Hong Sun,1 Xiao Yan,1 Shao-Kun Yang,1 De-Ying Cao,1 Qing Du,1 Xian-Rong Qi3

1Department of Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2Department of Pharmacology, Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang, Hebei, 3School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

As a potent therapeutic agent, small interfering RNA (siRNA) has been exploited to silence critical genes involved in tumor initiation and progression. However, development of a desirable delivery system is required to overcome the unfavorable properties of siRNA such as its high degradability, molecular size, and negative charge to help increase its accumulation in tumor tissues and promote efficient cellular uptake and endosomal/lysosomal escape of the nucleic acids. In this study, we developed a new activatable cell-penetrating peptide (ACPP) that is responsive to an acidic tumor microenvironment, which was then used to modify the surfaces of siRNA-loaded liposomes. The ACPP is composed of a cell-penetrating peptide (CPP), an acid-labile linker (hydrazone), and a polyanionic domain, including glutamic acid and histidine. In the systemic circulation (pH 7.4), the surface polycationic moieties of the CPP (polyarginine) are “shielded” by the intramolecular electrostatic interaction of the inhibitory domain. When exposed to a lower pH, a common property of solid tumors, the ACPP undergoes acid-catalyzed breakage at the hydrazone site, and the consequent protonation of histidine residues promotes detachment of the inhibitory peptide. Subsequently, the unshielded CPP would facilitate the cellular membrane penetration and efficient endosomal/lysosomal evasion of liposomal siRNA. A series of investigations demonstrated that once exposed to an acidic pH, the ACPP-modified liposomes showed elevated cellular uptake, downregulated expression of polo-like kinase 1, and augmented cell apoptosis. In addition, favorable siRNA avoidance of the endosome/lysosome was observed in both MCF-7 and A549 cells, followed by effective cytoplasmic release. In view of its acid sensitivity and therapeutic potency, this newly developed pH-responsive and ACPP-mediated liposome system represents a potential platform for siRNA-based cancer treatment.

siRNA, ACPP, hydrazone, liposome, endosomal/lysosomal escape

Creative Commons License This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.

Download Article [PDF]  View Full Text [HTML][Machine readable]