Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) are highly promising transfection agents that can deliver various compounds into living cells, including nucleic acids (NAs). Positively charged CPPs can form non-covalent complexes with negatively charged NAs, enabling simple and time-efficient nanoparticle preparation. However, as CPPs have substantially different chemical and physical properties, their complexation with the cargo and characteristics of the resulting nanoparticles largely depends on the properties of the surrounding environment, i.e., solution. Here, we show that the solvent used for the initial dissolving of a CPP determines the properties of the resulting CPP particles formed in an aqueous solution, including the activity and toxicity of the CPP–NA complexes. Using different biophysical methods such as dynamic light scattering (DLS), atomic force microscopy (AFM), transmission and scanning electron microscopy (TEM and SEM), we show that PepFect14 (PF14), a cationic amphipathic CPP, forms spherical particles of uniform size when dissolved in organic solvents, such as ethanol and DMSO. Water-dissolved PF14, however, tends to form micelles and non-uniform aggregates. When dissolved in organic solvents, PF14 retains its α-helical conformation and biological activity in cell culture conditions without any increase in cytotoxicity. Altogether, our results indicate that by using a solvent that matches the chemical nature of the CPP, the properties of the peptide–cargo particles can be tuned in the desired way. This can be of critical importance for in vivo applications, where CPP particles that are too large, non-uniform, or prone to aggregation may induce severe consequences.
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Biswas, A.; Maloverjan, M.; Padari, K.; Abroi, A.; Rätsep, M.; Wärmländer, S.K.T.S.; Jarvet, J.; Gräslund, A.; Kisand, V.; Lõhmus, R.; Pooga, M. Choosing an Optimal Solvent Is Crucial for Obtaining Cell-Penetrating Peptide Nanoparticles with Desired Properties and High Activity in Nucleic Acid Delivery. Pharmaceutics 2023, 15, 396.
Biswas A, Maloverjan M, Padari K, Abroi A, Rätsep M, Wärmländer SKTS, Jarvet J, Gräslund A, Kisand V, Lõhmus R, Pooga M. Choosing an Optimal Solvent Is Crucial for Obtaining Cell-Penetrating Peptide Nanoparticles with Desired Properties and High Activity in Nucleic Acid Delivery. Pharmaceutics. 2023; 15(2):396.
Biswas, Abhijit, Maria Maloverjan, Kärt Padari, Aare Abroi, Margus Rätsep, Sebastian K.T.S. Wärmländer, Jüri Jarvet, Astrid Gräslund, Vambola Kisand, Rünno Lõhmus, and Margus Pooga. 2023. "Choosing an Optimal Solvent Is Crucial for Obtaining Cell-Penetrating Peptide Nanoparticles with Desired Properties and High Activity in Nucleic Acid Delivery" Pharmaceutics 15, no. 2: 396.
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