A guanidinylated bioreducible polymer as a novel gene carrier to the corpus cavernosum of mice with high-cholesterol diet-induced erectile dysfunction



Jun-Kyu Suh, MD, PhD, National Research Center for Sexual Medicine and Department of Urology, Inha University School of Medicine, 7-206, 3rd St, Shinheung-Dong, Jung-Gu, Incheon 400-711, Korea. E-mail: jksuh@inha.ac.kr


A prerequisite for the successful clinical application of gene therapy in erectile dysfunction (ED) is the availability of safe and efficient gene delivery systems. The aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness of guanidinylated bioreducible polymer (GBP) polyplexes for gene delivery systems, which take advantage of the biodegradability of reducible disulfide bonds and the cell-penetrating ability of guanidine groups. For in vitro transfection experiments, we used mouse cavernous endothelial cells and A7r5 rat vascular smooth muscle cells. For in vivo experiments, we used a mouse model of hypercholesterolaemic ED in which 2-month-old male C57BL/6 mice were fed a diet containing 4% cholesterol and 1% cholic acid for 3 months. Animals or cells were treated with pCMV-Luc, poly(ethyleneimine) (PEI)25k/pCMV-Luc polyplex (weight ratio: 1) and GBP/pCMV-Luc polyplexes (weight ratio: 20, 40, 60 and 80). Gene expression was evaluated by luciferase assay, and the gene expression area was evaluated by immunohistochemistry. GBP had greater transfection efficiency as the weight ratio increased. GBP had sevenfold higher gene delivery efficiency in A7r5 cells at a weight ratio of 80 than did PEI25k. Moreover, the gene expression was more profoundly induced by GBP/pCMV-Luc than by pCMV-Luc in both the corpus cavernosum tissue of hypercholesterolaemic mice and in mouse cavernous endothelial cells, although the expression levels induced by the GBP gene delivery system were lower than those induced by the PEI25k gene delivery system. GBP revealed no considerable cytotoxicity to A7r5 cells and mouse cavernous endothelial cells (relative cell viability: 95 and 88% respectively), whereas PEI25k resulted in high cytotoxicity. Interestingly, immunofluorescent double staining revealed that luciferase expression induced by the GBP polyplex mainly overlapped with cavernous endothelial cells, but rarely with smooth muscle cells. The GBP-based non-viral gene expression system may be useful for the development of gene therapy in vasculogenic ED.