Protein transfection via spherical nucleic acids

Sasha B. Ebrahimi, Devleena Samanta, Caroline D. Kusmierz, Chad A. Mirkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The efficient transfection of functional proteins into cells can serve as a means for regulating cellular processes toward solving fundamental challenges in biology and medicine. However, the use of proteins as effective intracellular agents is hindered by their low cellular uptake and susceptibility to degradation. Over the past 15 years, our group has been developing spherical nucleic acids (SNAs), nanoparticles functionalized with a dense radially oriented shell of nucleic acids. These structures actively enter cells and have opened new frontiers in chemical sensing, biodiagnostics and therapeutics. Recently, we have shown that proteins can be used as structurally precise and homogeneous nanoparticle cores in SNAs. The resultant protein SNAs (ProSNAs) allow previously cell-impermeable proteins to actively enter cells, exhibit high degrees of stability and activity both in cell culture and in vivo, and show enhanced pharmacokinetics. Consequently, these modular structures constitute a plug-and-play platform in which the protein core and nucleic acid shell can be independently varied to achieve a desired function. Here, we describe the synthesis of ProSNAs through the chemical modification of solvent-accessible surface residues (3–5 d). We also discuss design considerations, strategies for characterization, and applications of ProSNAs in cellular transfection, biological sensing and functional enzyme delivery in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-357
Number of pages31
JournalNature Protocols
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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