N-Alkyl-PEI-functionalized iron oxide nanoclusters for efficient siRNA delivery

Gang Liu, Jin Xie, Fan Zhang, Zhiyong Wang, Kui Luo, Lei Zhu, Qimeng Quan, Gang Niu, Seulki Lee, Hua Ai, Xiaoyuan Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Small-interfering RNA (siRNA) is an emerging class of therapeutics, which works by regulating the expression of a specific gene involved in disease progression. Despite the promises, effective transport of siRNA with minimal side effects remains a challenge. In this study, a nonviral nanoparticle gene carrier is developed and its efficiency for siRNA delivery and transfection is validated at both in vitro and in vivo levels. Such a nanocarrier, abbreviated as Alkyl-PEI2k-IO, was constructed with a core of iron oxide nanoparticles (IOs) and a shell of alkylated polyethyleneimine of 2000 kDa molecualr weight (Alkyl-PEI2k). It is found to be able to bind with siRNA, resulting in well-dispersed nanoparticles with a controlled clustering structure and narrow size distribution. Electrophoresis studies show that the Alkyl-PEI2k-IOs could retard siRNA completely at N:P ratios (i.e., PEI nitrogen to nucleic acid phosphate) above 10, protect siRNA from enzymatic degradation in serum, and release complexed siRNA efficiently in the presence of polyanionic heparin. The knockdown efficiency of the siRNA-loaded nanocarriers is assessed with 4T1 cells stably expressing luciferase (fluc-4T1) and further, with a fluc-4T1 xenograft model. Significant down-regulation of luciferase is observed, and unlike high-molecular-weight analogues, the Alkyl-PEI2k-coated IOs show good biocompatibility. In conclusion, Alkyl-PEI2k-IOs demonstrate highly efficient delivery of siRNA and an innocuous toxic profile, making it a potential carrier for gene therapy. Iron oxide nanoclusters (IOs) functionalized with alkylated polyethyleneimine of 2000 kDa molecular weight (Alkyl-PEI2k) are synthesized using Alkyl-PEI2k as the phase transfer material, which binds siRNA to form well-dispersed nanoparticles with uniform structure and narrow size distribution. With siRNA loading, Alkyl-PEI2k-IOs induce enhanced luciferase gene (fluc) silencing in fluc-4T1 cells in cell culture and in a fluc-4T1 tumor xenograft model with good biocompatibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2742-2749
Number of pages8
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 4 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • biomaterials
  • polyethyleneimine
  • small-interfering RNA
  • superparamagnetic nanoparticles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)


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