Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

RNA therapeutics are poised to revolutionize medicine. To unlock the full potential of RNA drugs, safe and efficient (nano)formulations to deliver them inside target cells are required. Endosomal sequestration of nanocarriers represents a major bottleneck in nucleic acid delivery. Gaining more detailed information on the intracellular behavior of RNA nanocarriers is crucial to rationally develop delivery systems with improved therapeutic efficiency. Surfactant protein B (SP-B) is a key component of pulmonary surfactant (PS), essential for mammalian breathing. In contrast to the general belief that PS should be regarded as a barrier for inhaled nanomedicines, we recently discovered the ability of SP-B to promote gene silencing by siRNA-loaded and lipid-coated nanogels. However, the mechanisms governing this process are poorly understood. The major objective of this work was to obtain mechanistic insights into the SP-B-mediated cellular delivery of siRNA. To this end, we combined siRNA knockdown experiments, confocal microscopy, and focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy imaging in an in vitro non-small-cell lung carcinoma model with lipid mixing assays on vesicles that mimic the composition of (intra)cellular membranes. Our work highlights a strong correlation between SP-B-mediated fusion with anionic endosomal membranes and cytosolic siRNA delivery, a mode of action resembling that of certain viruses and virus-derived cell-penetrating peptides. Building on these gained insights, we optimized the SP-B proteolipid composition, which dramatically improved delivery efficiency. Altogether, our work provides a mechanistic understanding of SP-B-induced perturbation of intracellular membranes, offering opportunities to fuel the rational design of SP-B-inspired RNA nanoformulations for inhalation therapy.

Original publication




Journal article


ACS Nano

Publication Date





8095 - 8109


cellular delivery, endosomal escape, nanomedicine, nano−bio interface, pulmonary surfactant, siRNA, Animals, Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung, Cell Line, Tumor, Lung Neoplasms, Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein B, RNA, Small Interfering