Cyclo-(D-Trp-Tyr) peptide nanotubes (PNTs) were reported to be potential carriers for oral gene delivery in our previous study; however, the effect of the aspect ratio (AR) of these PNTs on gene deliveryin vivocould affect penetration or interception in biological environments. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of cyclo-(D-Trp-Tyr) PNTs with two ARs as carriers for oral pMBP-bcl-xL-hRlucdelivery to the spinal cord to treat spinal cord injury (SCI). We evaluated the biodistribution of oligodendrocyte (OLG)-specific myelin basic protein gene promoter-driven antiapoptotic DNA (pMBP-bcl-xL) to the brain and spinal cord delivered with cyclo-(D-Trp-Tyr) PNTs with large (L) and small (S) PNTs with two ARs. After complex formation, the length, width, and AR of the L-PNTs/DNA were 77.86 ± 3.30, 6.51 ± 0.28, and 13.75 ± 7.29 μm, respectively, and the length and width of the S-PNTs/DNA were 1.17 ± 0.52 and 0.17 ± 0.05 μm, respectively, giving an AR of 7.12 ± 3.17 as detected by scanning electron microscopy. Each of these three parameters exhibited significant differences (p< 0.05) between L-PNTs/DNA and S-PNTs/DNA. However, there were no significant differences (p> 0.05) between the L-PNTs and S-PNTs for either their DNA encapsulation efficiency (29.72 ± 14.19 and 34.31 ± 16.78%, respectively) or loading efficiency (5.15 ± 2.58 and 5.95 ± 2.91%). The results of thein vitroanalysis showed that the S-PNT/DNA complexes had a significantly higher DNA release rate and DNA permeation in the duodenum than the L-PNT/DNA complexes. Using Cy5 and TM-rhodamine to individually and chemically conjugate the PNTs with plasmid DNA, we observed, using laser confocal microscopy, that the PNTs and DNA colocalized in complexes. We further confirmed the complexation between DNA and the PNTs using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). Data from anin vivoimaging system (IVIS) showed that there was no significant difference (p> 0.05) in PNT distribution between L-PNTs/DNA and S-PNTs/DNA within 4 h. However, the S-PNT/DNA group had a significantly higher DNA distribution (p< 0.05) in several organs, including the ilium, heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, testes, brain, and spinal cord. Finally, we determined the bcl-xLprotein expression levels in the brain and spinal cord regions for the L-PNT/DNA and S-PNT/DNA complex formulations. These results suggested that either L-PNTs or S-PNTs may be used as potential carriers for oral gene delivery to treat SCI.
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