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We have evaluated the capacity of the cell-binding heptapeptide SIGYPLP to enhance transgene expression using non-viral and viral gene delivery vectors. Targeted polyplex based vectors showed good levels of DNA uptake in freshly isolated human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) compared to untargeted controls, whilst displaying only modest increases in reporter gene activity. The targeted polyplexes showed reduced levels of DNA uptake in cells of a none endothelial origin although they mediated higher levels of transgene expression. The enhanced efficiency of transgene expression may relate to the more rapid rate of cell division. However, since in vivo application of polyplexes is compromised by instability to serum proteins, serum-resistant polyplexes (surface modified with multivalent reactive hydrophilic polymers based on poly[N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide] (pHPMA)) were also evaluated for their ability to mediate transgene expression. Surface modification of polyplexes with pHPMA ablates non-specific cell entry, reducing levels of transgene expression, whilst the incorporation of the SIGYPLP peptide into the hydrophilic polymer resulted in restored transgene expression in all formulations tested. The technology of surface modification using pHPMA can also be applied in the context of viruses, masking receptor-binding epitopes and enabling the linkage of novel cell targeting ligands, enabling construction of a virus with receptor-specific infectivity. Retargeting of adenovirus based vectors using the same polymer-peptide construct enhanced levels of transgene expression in HUVECs to greater than 15 times that observed using parental (unmodified) virus, whilst restoring levels of transgene expression in non-endothelial cell lines tested. The use of constructs based on conjugates between hydrophilic polymers and small receptor-binding oligopeptides as agents for retargeting viral or non-viral vectors to cellular receptors represents a simple alternative to the use of antibodies as targeting ligands for cell specific gene delivery.

Original publication




Journal article


J Drug Target

Publication Date





39 - 51


Cell Line, Drug Evaluation, Preclinical, Endothelial Cells, Esters, Gene Targeting, Genetic Vectors, Humans, Methacrylates, Peptides, Transfection, Umbilical Veins