Decationized polyplexes as stable and safe carrier systems for improved biodistribution in systemic gene therapy

L. Novo, L.Y. Rizzo, S.K. Golombek, G.R. Dakwar, B. Lou, K. Remaut, E. Mastrobattista, C.F. van Nostrum, W. Jahnen-Dechent, F. Kiessling, K. Braeckmans, Twan Gerardus Gertudis Maria Lammers, W.E. Hennink

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35 Citations (Scopus)


Many polycation-based gene delivery vectors show high transfection in vitro, but their cationic nature generally leads to significant toxicity and poor in vivo performance which significantly hampers their clinical applicability. Unlike conventional polycation-based systems, decationized polyplexes are based on hydrophilic and neutral polymers. They are obtained by a 3-step process: charge-driven condensation followed by disulfide crosslinking stabilization and finally polyplex decationization. They consist of a disulfide-crosslinked poly(hydroxypropyl methacrylamide) (pHPMA) core stably entrapping plasmid DNA (pDNA), surrounded by a shell of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG). In the present paper the applicability of decationized polyplexes for systemic administration was evaluated. Cy5-labeled decationized polyplexes were evaluated for stability in plasma by fluorescence single particle tracking (fSPT), which technique showed stable size distribution for 48 h unlike its cationic counterpart. Upon the incubation of the polymers used for the formation of polyplexes with HUVEC cells, MTT assay showed excellent cytocompatibility of the neutral polymers. The safety was further demonstrated by a remarkable low teratogenicity and mortality activity of the polymers in a zebrafish assay, in great contrast with their cationic counterpart. Near infrared (NIR) dye-labeled polyplexes were evaluated for biodistribution and tumor accumulation by noninvasive optical imaging when administered systemically in tumor bearing mice. Decationized polyplexes exhibited an increased circulation time and higher tumor accumulation, when compared to their cationic precursors. Histology of tumors sections showed that decationized polyplexes induced reporter transgene expression in vivo. In conclusion, decationized polyplexes are a platform for safer polymeric vectors with improved biodistribution properties when systemically administered
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)162-175
JournalJournal of controlled release
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • IR-95154
  • METIS-309496

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