Targeted delivery of antisense oligonucleotides by molecular conjugates

Bruce A. Bunnell, Frederick K. Askari, James M. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Antisense oligonucleotides efficiently inhibit gene expression in vitro; however, the successful therapeutic application of this technology in vivo will require the development of improved delivery systems. In this report we describe a technique that efficiently delivers antisense oligonucleotides into cells using molecular conjugates. This technique, which was initially developed for the delivery of eukaryotic genes, is based on the construction of DNA-protein complexes that are recognized by the liver-specific asialoglycoprotein receptor. Binding of poly(l-lysine)-asialoorosomucoid (AsOR) protein conjugates with phosphorothioate antisense oligonucleotides to chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) led to the formation of 50- to 150-nm toroids. Exposure of the antisense molecular complexes (3 μM oligonucleotide) to NIH 3T3 cells genetically modified to express both the AsOR receptor and CAT, inhibited CAT expression by 54%, which was completely blocked by excess AsOR. Equivalent inhibition of CAT activity with purified oligonucleotide alone was observed at a 30 μM concentration. Furthermore, examination of the cells using indirect immunofluorescence for the presence of CAT protein showed 28% of cells exposed to the molecular conjugates lacked any detectable CAT enzyme. Cells exposed to oligonucleotide alone showed a highly variable staining pattern, and only a few of the cells were completely void of CAT protein. Together these data demonstrate that molecular conjugates provide a highly specific and efficient system for the delivery of antisense oligonucleotides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-569
Number of pages11
JournalSomatic Cell and Molecular Genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1992


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