Design of pH-sensitive peptides from natural antimicrobial peptides for enhancing polyethylenimine-mediated gene transfection.
Background: Poor endosomal release is a major barrier of polyplex-mediated gene transfection. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are commonly used to improve polyethylenimine (PEI)-mediated gene transfection by increasing endosomal release. In the present study, we designed novel pH-sensitive peptides that highly enhance transfection efficiency compared to their parent peptides.
Methods: Two analogues of melittin (Mel) and RV-23 (RV) were synthesized by replacing the positively-charged residues in their sequences with glutamic acid residues. The pH-sensitive lysis ability of the peptides, the effect of the peptides on physicochemical characteristics, the intracellular trafficking, the transfection efficiency, and the cytotoxicity of the polyplexes were determined.
Results: The acidic peptides showed pH-sensitive lytic activity. The hemolytic activity of acidic peptides at pH 5.0 was higher than that at pH 7.4. The incorporation of acidic peptides did not affect the DNA binding ability of PEI but affected the physicochemical characteristics of the PEI/DNA polyplexes, which may be beneficial for endosomal release and gene transfection. The incorporation of acidic peptides into PEI/DNA polyplexes enhanced the PEI-mediated transfection efficiency corresponding to up to 42-fold higher luciferase activity compared to that of PEI alone.
Conclusions: The results of the present study indicate that replacement of positively-charged residues with glutamic acid residues in the AMP sequence yields pH-sensitive peptides, which enhance the transfection efficiency of PEI/DNA polyplexes in various cell lines.