A Flexible Method for the Conjugation of Aminooxy Ligands to Preformed Complexes of Nucleic Acids and Lipids



Attachment of targeted ligands to nonviral DNA or RNA delivery systems is a promising strategy that seeks to overcome the poor target selectivity generally observed in systemic delivery applications. Several methods have been developed for the conjugation of ligands to lipids or polymers, however, direct conjugation of ligands onto lipid– or polymer–nucleic acid complexes is not as straightforward. Here, we examine an oximation approach to directly label a lipoplex formulation. Specifically, we report the synthesis of a cationic diketo lipid DMDK, and its use as a convenient ligation tool for attachment of aminooxy-functionalized reagents after its complexation with DNA. We demonstrate the feasibility of direct lipoplex labeling by attaching an aminooxy-functionalized fluorescent probe onto pre-formed plasmid DNA–DMDK lipoplexes (luciferase, GFP). The results reveal that DMDK protects DNA from degradation on exposure to either DNase or human cerebral spinal fluid, and that simple mixing of DMDK lipoplexes with the aminooxy probe labels the complexes without sacrificing transfection efficiency. The biocompatibility and selectivity of this method, as well as the ease of bioconjugation, make this labeling approach ideal for biological applications.