Dual bioluminescence and near-infrared fluorescence monitoring to evaluate spherical nucleic acid nanoconjugate activity in vivo

Timothy L. Sita, Fotini M. Kouri, Lisa A. Hurley, Timothy J. Merkel, Alexandra Chalastanis, Jasmine L. May, Serena T. Ghelfi, Lisa E. Cole, Thomas C. Cayton, Stacey N. Barnaby, Anthony J. Sprangers, Nikunjkumar Savalia, Charles David James, Andrew Lee, Chad A. Mirkin*, Alexander H. Stegh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


RNA interference (RNAi)-based gene regulation platforms have shown promise as a novel class of therapeutics for the precision treatment of cancer. Techniques in preclinical evaluation of RNAibased nanoconjugates have yet to allow for optimization of their gene regulatory activity.We have developed spherical nucleic acids (SNAs) as a blood-brain barrier-/blood-tumor barrier-penetrating nanoconjugate to deliver small interfering (si) and micro (mi)RNAs to intracranial glioblastoma (GBM) tumor sites. To identify high-activity SNA conjugates and to determine optimal SNA treatment regimens, we developed a reporter xenograft model to evaluate SNA efficacy in vivo. Engrafted tumors stably coexpress optical reporters for luciferase and a nearinfrared (NIR) fluorescent protein (iRFP670), with the latter fused to the DNA repair protein O6-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT). Using noninvasive imaging of animal subjects bearing reporter-modified intracranial xenografts, we quantitatively assessed MGMT knockdown by SNAs composed of MGMT-targeting siRNA duplexes (siMGMT-SNAs). We show that systemic administration of siMGMT-SNAs via single tail vein injection is capable of robust intratumoral MGMT protein knockdown in vivo, with persistent and SNA dose-dependent MGMT silencing confirmed by Western blotting of tumor tissue ex vivo. Analyses of SNA biodistribution and pharmacokinetics revealed rapid intratumoral uptake and significant intratumoral retention that increased the antitumor activity of coadministered temozolomide (TMZ). Our study demonstrates that dual noninvasive bioluminescence and NIR fluorescence imaging of cancer xenograft models represents a powerful in vivo strategy to identify RNAi-based nanotherapeutics with potent gene silencing activity and will inform additional preclinical and clinical investigations of these constructs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4129-4134
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 18 2017


  • Bioluminescence
  • Glioblastoma multiforme
  • Near-infrared fluorescence
  • O-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase
  • Spherical nucleic acid nanoconjugates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Dual bioluminescence and near-infrared fluorescence monitoring to evaluate spherical nucleic acid nanoconjugate activity in vivo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this