Polysarcosine-Functionalized mRNA Lipid Nanoparticles Tailored for Immunotherapy
Lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) have gained great attention as carriers for mRNA-based therapeutics, finding applications in various indications, extending beyond their recent use in vaccines for infectious diseases. However, many aspects of LNP structure and their effects on efficacy are not well characterized. To further exploit the potential of mRNA therapeutics, better control of the relationship between LNP formulation composition with internal structure and transfection efficiency in vitro is necessary. We compared two well-established ionizable lipids, namely DODMA and MC3, in combination with two helper lipids, DOPE and DOPC, and two polymer-grafted lipids, either with polysarcosine (pSar) or polyethylene glycol (PEG). In addition to standard physicochemical characterization (size, zeta potential, RNA accessibility), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) was used to analyze the structure of the LNPs. To assess biological activity, we performed transfection and cell-binding assays in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (hPBMCs) using Thy1.1 reporter mRNA and Cy5-labeled mRNA, respectively. With the SAXS measurements, we were able to clearly reveal the effects of substituting the ionizable and helper lipid on the internal structure of the LNPs. In contrast, pSar as stealth moieties affected the LNPs in a different manner, by changing the surface morphology towards higher roughness. pSar LNPs were generally more active, where the highest transfection efficiency was achieved with the LNP formulation composition of MC3/DOPE/pSar. Our study highlights the utility of pSar for improved mRNA LNP products and the importance of pSar as a novel stealth moiety enhancing efficiency in future LNP formulation development. SAXS can provide valuable information for the rational development of such novel formulations by elucidating structural features in different LNP compositions.