Combined Hydrophobization of Polyethylenimine with Cholesterol and Perfluorobutyrate Improves siRNA Delivery

Pengkai Wu, Xinping Luo, Hui Wu, Qingyan Zhang, Kaikai Wang, Minjie Sun, David Oupicky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Polyethylenimine (PEI) is a promising delivery vector of nucleic acids, but cytotoxicity and only moderate transfection efficacy with small RNAs limit its applications. Here we hypothesized that hydrophobization of PEI by combined modification with perfluorinated moieties (F) and cholesterol (Ch) will help in addressing both the cytotoxicity and siRNA delivery efficacy. To test the hypothesis, we synthesized a series of copolymers (F-PEI-Ch) by modifying PEI by reaction with heptafluorobutyric anhydride and cholesteryl chloroformate. We investigated and compared the effect of the modifications on siRNA delivery in vitro and in vivo. We found that the F-PEI-Ch copolymers assembled into micellar structures and that the copolymer with the highest Ch content exhibited the best siRNA delivery performance, including lower cytotoxicity, enhanced cell uptake, improved endosomal escape, and the best siRNA silencing efficacy in vitro and in vivo when compared with control PEI, F-PEI, and PEI-Ch. Overall, hydrophobization of PEI with a combination of cholesterol and superhydrophobic perfluorinated moieties represents a promising approach to the design of siRNA delivery vectors with decreased toxicity and enhanced transfection efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)698-707
Number of pages10
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 18 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


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