Cellular uptake of ribonuclease A-functionalised core–shell silica microspheres†
Analysis of protein function in a cellular context ideally requires physiologically representative levels of that protein. Thus conventional nucleic acid-based transfection methods are far from ideal owing to the over expression that generally results. Likewise, fusions with protein transduction domains can be problematic whilst delivery via liposomes/nanoparticles typically results in endosomal localisation. Recently, polymer microspheres have been reported to be highly effective at delivering proteins into cells and thus provide a viable new alternative for protein delivery (protein transduction). Herein we describe the successful delivery of active ribonuclease A into HeLa cells via novel polymer core–silica shell microspheres. Specifically, poly(styrene-co-vinylbenzylisothiouronium chloride) core particles, generated by dispersion polymerisation, were coated with a poly(styrene-co-trimethoxysilylpropyl methacrylate) shell. The resultant core–shell morphology was characterised by transmission electron, scanning electron and confocal fluorescence microscopies, whilst size and surface charge was assessed by dynamic light scattering and zeta-potential measurements, respectively. Subsequently, ribonuclease A was coupled to the microspheres using simple carbodiimide chemistry. Gel electrophoresis confirmed and quantified the activity of the immobilised enzyme against purified HeLa RNA. Finally, the polymer–protein particles were evaluated as protein-transduction vectors in vitro to deliver active ribonuclease A to HeLa cells. Cellular uptake of the microspheres was successful and resulted in reduced levels of both intracellular RNA and cell viability.