The master regulator of the fibrosis cascade is the myocardin-related transcription factor/serum response factor (MRTF/SRF) pathway, making it a key target for anti-fibrotic therapeutics. In the past, inhibitors and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting the MRTF-B gene have been deployed to counter fibrosis in the eye, with the latter showing promising results. However, the biggest challenge in implementing siRNA therapeutics is the method of delivery. In this study, we utilised the novel, pH-sensitive, cationic lipid CL4H6, which has previously demonstrated potent targeting of hepatocytes and endosomal escape, to safely and efficiently deliver an MRTF-B siRNA into human conjunctival fibroblasts. We prepared two lipid nanoparticle (LNP) formulations, incorporating targeting cleavable peptide cY in one of them, and measured their physicochemical properties and silencing effect in human conjunctival fibroblasts. Both proved to be non-cytotoxic at a concentration of 50 nM and effectively silenced the MRTF-B gene in vitro, with the targeting cleavable peptide not affecting the silencing efficiency [LNP with cY: 62.1% and 81.5% versus LNP without cY: 77.7% and 80.2%, at siRNA concentrations of 50 nM (p = 0.06) and 100 nM (p = 0.09), respectively]. On the other hand, the addition of the targeting cleavable peptide significantly increased the encapsulation efficiency of the LNPs from 92.5% to 99.3% (p = 0.0005). In a 3D fibroblast-populated collagen matrix model, both LNP formulations significantly decreased fibroblast contraction after a single transfection. We conclude that the novel PEGylated CL4H6-MRTF-B siRNA-loaded LNPs represent a promising therapeutic approach to prevent conjunctival fibrosis after glaucoma filtration surgery.
- lipid nanoparticle
- targeting peptide