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Gene therapy employs exogenous nucleic acids to treat genetic diseases and disorders. The insufficient cytosolic delivery of genetic materials remains a major hurdle for effective gene therapy. To address this challenge, we have designed and synthesized various cationic protein nanocapsules that can efficiently condense nucleic acids via self-assembly. Through systematically investigating the gene transfection efficiency of these nanocapsules as delivery vectors, we find that nanocapsules, which were synthesized with hydrolyzable polymers containing tertiary amine groups, afford the highest transfection efficiency (~ 80%), resulting in stable protein expression for over four days. The mechanistic study reveals that tertiary amine groups facilitate the endosomal escape of the nucleic acid-nanocapsule complexes after their cell internalization via endocytosis. The subsequent hydrolysis of the polymers triggers the cytosolic release of the nucleic acids, thereby prompting gene expression. Our results not only provide a new class of gene delivery vectors but also detail the parameters for future vector design.

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Publication history

Received: 11 March 2021
Revised: 18 March 2021
Accepted: 24 March 2021
Published: 10 April 2021
Issue date: January 2022

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© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2021

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Science and Technology Major Project (Nos. 2018ZX09J18101 and 2019ZX09J19103) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81703048).

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Reprints and Permission requests may be sought directly from editorial office.
Email: nanores@tup.tsinghua.edu.cn

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