Peptide/Cas9 nanostructures for ribonucleoprotein cell membrane transport and gene edition
The discovery of RNA guided endonucleases has emerged as one of the most important tools for gene edition and biotechnology. The selectivity and simplicity of the CRISPR/Cas9 strategy allows the straightforward targeting and editing of particular loci in the cell genome without the requirement of protein engineering. However, the transfection of plasmids encoding the Cas9 and the guide RNA could lead to undesired permanent recombination and immunogenic responses. Therefore, the direct delivery of transient Cas9 ribonucleoprotein constitutes an advantageous strategy for gene edition and other potential therapeutic applications of the CRISPR/Cas9 system. The covalent fusion of Cas9 with penetrating peptides requires multiple incubation steps with the target cells to achieve efficient levels of gene edition. These and other recent reports suggested that covalent conjugation of the anionic Cas9 ribonucleoprotein to cationic peptides would be associated with a hindered nuclease activity due to undesired electrostatic interactions. We here report a supramolecular strategy for the direct delivery of Cas9 by an amphiphilic penetrating peptide that was prepared by a hydrazone bond formation between a cationic peptide scaffold and a hydrophobic aldehyde tail. The peptide/protein non-covalent nanoparticles performed with similar efficiency and less toxicity than one of the best methods described to date. To the best of our knowledge this report constitutes the first supramolecular strategy for the direct delivery of Cas9 using a penetrating peptide vehicle. The results reported here confirmed that peptide amphiphilic vectors can deliver Cas9 in a single incubation step, with good efficiency and low toxicity. This work will encourage the search and development of conceptually new synthetic systems for transitory endonucleases direct delivery.