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Maier, Kevin (2012): Design of an acid labile traceless-cleavable click linker for use in a novel protein transduction shuttle. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy



Intracellular protein delivery is offering numerous possibilities in research and in therapy. Aside gene therapy, protein delivery into living cells is one of the most promising tools for the treatment of various so far immedicable diseases including cancer. To develop a practicable protein delivery platform, a test system which allows easy control of successful intracellular delivery is needed. Therefore a test system based on two model proteins was established. A nuclear localization signal tagged EGFP molecule is enabling fast control of cellular uptake and endosomal release. The second model protein ß-galactosidase is evidencing that protein conformation is not irreversible disturbed by modification with the carrier molecules. Protein transduction technology is opening the door for a promising alternative to gene therapy, as it is lacking of the potential malignant side effects of gene therapy. The most limiting step in the development of a therapeutic drug remains the delivery process. In the last decade, many techniques to deliver proteins into living cells were developed. Although great efforts were made, so far no all-purpose technique is available that addresses all critical steps, like efficient uptake, endo-lysosomal escape, low toxicity, while maintaining enzymatic activity. Each method has got its limitation, for example cell type dependence. Among the so far used carriers, the most effective ones are cationic polymers like polyethylenimine. These carriers are lacking of precise structure and often show high toxicity, dependent on the molecular weight of the used polymer. In this thesis the properties of the three arm cationic oligomer 386, which was previously designed for siRNA delivery was investigated in regard of being applicable as a transduction carrier for protein delivery. This carrier molecule, in contrast to other cationic polymers used for protein delivery, is of precise structure, of low molecular weight and potentially degradable by proteases. The transduction oligomer was covalently bound to the protein by a bioreversible bond. Our results reveal that covalent coupling of the structure defined cationic oligomer 386 to a protein leads to a high efficient, serum insensitive and low toxic alternative to established protein transduction technologies. For a general all-purpose delivery system covalent coupling of the carrier to the cargo protein is indispensable. Protein delivery requires special properties to the linker molecule. Therefore in this work a new pH sensitive linker was developed which combines the advantages of click reactions with the implementation of a traceless cleavable bond between two conjugated molecules. Three different click chemistries were performed which all are compatible with the acid labile properties. A traceless cleavage may be a particularly important feature in protein transduction strategies, to maintain full bioactivity of enzymes and other proteins. The current example of 386 carrier-mediated cytosolic delivery and subsequent nuclear import of released nls-EGFP demonstrates the advantage of the traceless linker. To demonstrate that the modification does not irreversibly affect structure and biological activity of proteins, 386-AzMMMan-ßgalactosidase was delivered as a model enzyme. It exhibited cytosolic activity in the transduced cells far higher than without shuttle. Aside from these encouraging options for protein delivery and modification, the linker might have broader use in the design of novel programmed, acid labile and biodegradable drug delivery systems. Targeted therapeutics could, after delivery into acidic tumor areas or upon cellular uptake into endosomes, be dismantled from their outer shell including targeting ligands. Besides drug delivery, the linker may also be of interest for other applications, such as reversible labeling of various biological and also chemical molecules. The developed linking strategy and the presented concepts for transduction shuttles may help to get a step closer in the design of an all-purpose protein delivery platform, applicable on bench as on bedside.