RNA interference-based therapies are dependent on intracellular delivery of siRNA. The release of siRNA from the endosomal compartment may be a rate limiting step in the transfection process. The purpose of this study was to produce pH-responsive nanocarriers made of trimethylchitosan (TMC). To this end, pH-sensitive methacrylic acid (MAA) copolymer was added to TMC-siRNA formulations. Four different TMCs associated or not with MAA were evaluated as siRNA carriers. Nanoparticles were characterized in terms of size, surface charge, morphology and interaction with siRNA. A swelling behaviour due to a decrease in pH was observed and was found to be dependent on MAA content in the complexes. In vitro experiments aimed at evaluating how the capacity of the nanocarriers to transfect siRNA in L929 cells was affected by MAA content. Confocal microscopy experiments showed that fluorescent MAA-containing particles exhibit a different distribution pattern inside the cells comparing to their counterpart without this pH-sensitive polymer. Transfection efficiency was investigated by RhoA mRNA expression inhibition. MAA-TMC-siRNA complexes were able to transfect L929 cells with greater efficiency than corresponding TMC-siRNA complexes. This study gives an insight into the opportunity of pH-sensitive nanocarriers for siRNA delivery. Such formulations may represent an attractive strategy to improve endosomal escape of siRNA. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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