Defining the Design Parameters for in Vivo Enzyme Delivery through Protein Spherical Nucleic Acids

Caroline D. Kusmierz, Katherine E. Bujold, Cassandra E. Callmann, Chad A. Mirkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


The translation of proteins as effective intracellular drug candidates is limited by the challenge of cellular entry and their vulnerability to degradation. To advance their therapeutic potential, cell-impermeable proteins can be readily transformed into protein spherical nucleic acids (ProSNAs) by densely functionalizing their surfaces with DNA, yielding structures that are efficiently taken up by cells. Because small structural changes in the chemical makeup of a conjugated ligand can affect the bioactivity of the associated protein, structure-activity relationships of the linker bridging the DNA and the protein surface and the DNA sequence itself are investigated on the ProSNA system. In terms of attachment chemistry, DNA-based linkers promote a sevenfold increase in cellular uptake while maintaining enzymatic activity in vitro as opposed to hexaethylene glycol (HEG, Spacer18) linkers. Additionally, the employment of G-quadruplex-forming sequences increases cellular uptake in vitro up to fourfold. When translating to murine models, the ProSNA with a DNA-only shell exhibits increased blood circulation times and higher accumulation in major organs, including lung, kidney, and spleen, regardless of sequence. Importantly, ProSNAs with an all-oligonucleotide shell retain their enzymatic activity in tissue, whereas the native protein loses all function. Taken together, these results highlight the value of structural design in guiding ProSNA biological fate and activity and represent a significant step forward in the development of intracellular protein-based therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-822
Number of pages8
JournalACS Central Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 27 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)

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