Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Salem, Aliasger K

Second Advisor

Grosland, Nicole M

First Committee Member

Park, Joon B

Second Committee Member

Lim, Tae-Hong

Third Committee Member

Behlke, Mark A


Regulation of gene expression using small interfering RNA (siRNA) is a promising strategy for research and treatment of numerous diseases. However, siRNA cannot easily cross the cell membrane due to its inherent instability, large molecular weight and anionic nature. For this reason, a carrier that protects, delivers and unloads siRNA is required for successful gene silencing. The goal of this research was to develop a potential siRNA delivery system for in vitro and in vivo applications using cationic polymers, chitosan and polyethylenimine (PEI), poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), mannose, and poly(D,L-lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA). Furthermore, the delivery system was constructed in two different ways to explore the effect of mannose location in the structure. In the first approach, mannose and PEG were directly conjugated to the chitosan/PEI backbone, while mannose was connected to the chitosan/PEI backbone through PEG spacer in the second approach. First, the ability of modified chitosan polymers to complex and deliver siRNA for gene silencing was investigated. Despite the modified chitosan polymers successfully formed nanoplexes with siRNA, entered target cells and reduced cytotoxicity of unmodified chitosan, they showed limited gene silencing efficiency. For this reason, modified PEIs were examined to improve in vitro gene knockdown. The modified PEI polymers also complexed with siRNA and facilitated endocytosis of the nanoplexes. In addition, the modifications reduced inherent cytotoxicity of unmodified PEI without compromising the gene silencing efficiency on both mRNA and protein levels. Interestingly, we found that complexation of siRNA with PEI-PEG-mannose resulted in higher cell uptake and gene silencing than complexes made with mannose-PEI-PEG. Finally, the effect of sustained release of the mannosylated pegylated PEI/siRNA nanoplexes on gene silencing was tested by encapsulating the nanoplexes within PLGA microparticles. The modified PEIs enhanced the entrapment efficiency of siRNA into the particles and resulted in reduced initial burst followed by sustained release. Incorporating the modified PEIs increased cellular uptake of siRNA, whereas it did not enhance in vitro gene knockdown efficiency due to the sustained release properties. The modified PEIs reduced the in vitro cytotoxicity and in vivo hepatotoxicity of the PLGA microparticles. In addition, encapsulating the nanoplexes into PLGA microparticles further reduced the cytotoxicity of PEI. Throughout the study, the second structure was proven more efficacious than the first structure in cellular uptake, gene silencing, siRNA encapsulation, and sustained release. We have developed novel polymeric siRNA delivery systems that enhance delivery efficiency and cellular uptake of siRNA. They have great potential for utility as a long-acting siRNA delivery system in biomedical research.


chitosan, gene delivery, poly(D,L-lactic-co-glycolic acid), polyethylenimine, RNA interference (RNAi), small interfering RNA (siRNA)


xiv, 158 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 140-158).


Copyright 2011 NaJung Kim