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Cell-penetrating peptide-mediated delivery of phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs) has shown great promise for exon-skipping therapy of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Pip6a-PMO, a recently developed conjugate, is particularly efficient in a murine DMD model, although mechanisms responsible for its increased biological activity have not been studied. Here, we evaluate the cellular trafficking and the biological activity of Pip6a-PMO in skeletal muscle cells and primary cardiomyocytes. Our results indicate that Pip6a-PMO is taken up in the skeletal muscle cells by an energy- and caveolae-mediated endocytosis. Interestingly, its cellular distribution is different in undifferentiated and differentiated skeletal muscle cells (vesicular versus nuclear). Likewise, Pip6a-PMO mainly accumulates in cytoplasmic vesicles in primary cardiomyocytes, in which clathrin-mediated endocytosis seems to be the pre-dominant uptake pathway. These differences in cellular trafficking correspond well with the exon-skipping data, with higher activity in myotubes than in myoblasts or cardiomyocytes. These differences in cellular trafficking thus provide a possible mechanistic explanation for the variations in exon-skipping activity and restoration of dystrophin protein in heart muscle compared with skeletal muscle tissues in DMD models. Overall, Pip6a-PMO appears as the most efficient conjugate to date (low nanomolar EC50), even if limitations remain from endosomal escape.

Original publication




Journal article


Nucleic Acids Res

Publication Date





3207 - 3217


Animals, Cell-Penetrating Peptides, Cells, Cultured, Endocytosis, Exons, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Inbred mdx, Morpholinos, Muscle Fibers, Skeletal, Myoblasts, Skeletal, Myocytes, Cardiac, Peptides, RNA Splicing