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Light-Responsive Helical Polypeptides Capable of Reducing Toxicity and Unpacking DNA: Toward Nonviral Gene Delivery


  • J.C. acknowledges support from the NSF (CHE-1153122) and the NIH (NIH Director’s New Innovator Award 1DP2OD007246, 1R21EB013379).


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Gene delivery vehicles: Helical, cationic polypeptides with light-responsive domains showed potent membrane activity and promoted efficient cellular internalization of DNA (see picture). After transfection, a light trigger induces protecting-group removal to expose anionic carboxylate groups. The reduced cationic charge and helix distortion of the polypeptides result in enhanced DNA unpacking and reduced material toxicity because of the eliminated membrane activity.