Histidinylated poly-L-lysine-based vectors for cancer-specific gene expression via enhancing the endosomal escape

Guo Xi Zhao, Hiroyuki Tanaka, Chan Woo Kim, Kai Li, Daiki Funamoto, Takanobu Nobori, Yuta Nakamura, Takuro Niidome, Akihiro Kishimura, Takeshi Mori, Yoshiki Katayama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In this work, we synthesized a series of poly-L-lysine (PLL)-based polymers for gene delivery, by modifying the PLL with both cationic peptide and histidine. The peptide moieties serve as cationic centers for polyplex formation, and also as substrates for protein kinase Cα (PKCα), which is specifically activated in many types of cancer cells, to achieve cancer-specific gene expression. The histidine groups serve as buffering moieties to increase the ability of the plasmid DNA (pDNA)-polymer complex (polyplex) to escape the endosome and thus to promote expression of the pDNA in the transfected cells. The facile synthesis of the polymers proceeded by modifying the PLL with side-group-protected peptide and protected histidine, followed by deprotection of the functional groups. The synthesized polymers showed significant buffering capacity over the neutral to acidic pH range and showed less cytotoxicity in vitro compared with histidine-unmodified polymers. The polyplexes successfully showed PKCα-responsive gene expression immediately after their introduction into cancer cells and the gene expression continued for at least 24 h. These PLL-based carriers thus show promise for cancer-targeted gene therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-534
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biomaterials Science, Polymer Edition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 24 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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