(16e) Structurally Programmed Assembly of Ribonucleoproteins for Superior mRNA Delivery
Messenger RNA (mRNA) represents a promising class of nucleic acid-based therapeutics. While numerous nanocarriers have been developed for mRNA delivery, the inherent labile nature of mRNA results in a very low transfection efficiency and poor expression of desired protein. Here we preassemble the mRNA translation initiation structure through an inherent molecular recognition between 7-methyl guanosine (m7G) capped mRNA and eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) protein to form ribonucleoproteins (RNPs), thereby mimicking the first step of protein synthesis inside cells. Subsequent electrostatic stabilization of RNPs with structurally tunable cationic carriers leads to nano-sized complexes (nanoplexes), which elicit unprecedented levels of mRNA transfection in different cell types by enhancing intracellular mRNA stability and protein synthesis. By investigating a family of synthetic polypeptides bearing different side group arrangements of cationic charge, we find that the molecular structure modulates the nano-scale distance between the mRNA strand and the eIF4E protein inside the nanoplex, which directly impacts the enhancement of mRNA transfection. To demonstrate the biomedical potential of this approach, we first use this approach to introduce mRNA/eIF4E nanoplexes to murine dendritic cells, resulting in increased activation of cytotoxic CD8 T cells ex vivo. More importantly, eIF4E enhances gene expression in lungs following a systemic delivery of luciferase mRNA/eIF4E in mice. Collectively, this bio-inspired molecular assembly method could lead to a novel paradigm of gene delivery.