Lipid Nanoparticle (LNP) Chemistry Can Endow Unique in Vivo RNA Delivery Fates within the Liver That Alter Therapeutic Outcomes in a Cancer Model

Lindsay T. Johnson, Di Zhang, Kejin Zhou, Sang M. Lee, Shuai Liu, Sean A. Dilliard, Lukas Farbiak, Sumanta Chatterjee, Yu Hsuan Lin, Daniel J. Siegwart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Within the field of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) for RNA delivery, the focus has been mainly placed on organ level delivery, which can mask cellular level effects consequential to therapeutic applications. Here, we studied a pair of LNPs with similar physical properties and discovered how the chemistry of the ionizable amino lipid can control the endogenous LNP identity, affecting cellular uptake in the liver and altering therapeutic outcomes in a model of liver cancer. Although most LNPs accumulate in the liver after intravenous administration (suggesting that liver delivery is straightforward), we observed an unexpected behavior when comparing two similar LNP formulations (5A2-SC8 and 3A5-SC14 LNPs) that resulted in distinct RNA delivery within the organ. Despite both LNPs possessing similar physical properties, ability to silence gene expression in vitro, strong accumulation within the liver, and a shared pKa of 6.5, only 5A2-SC8 LNPs were able to functionally deliver RNA to hepatocytes. Factor VII (FVII) activity was reduced by 87%, with 5A2-SC8 LNPs carrying FVII siRNA (siFVII), while 3A5-SC14 LNPs carrying siFVII produced baseline FVII activity levels comparable to the nontreatment control at a dosage of 0.5 mg/kg. Protein corona analysis indicated that 5A2-SC8 LNPs bind apolipoprotein E (ApoE), which can drive LDL-R receptor-mediated endocytosis in hepatocytes. In contrast, the surface of 3A5-SC14 LNPs was enriched in albumin but depleted in ApoE, which likely led to Kupffer cell delivery and detargeting of hepatocytes. In an aggressive MYC-driven liver cancer model relevant to hepatocytes, 5A2-SC8 LNPs carrying let-7g miRNA were able to significantly extend survival up to 121 days. Since disease targets exist in an organ- and cell-specific manner, the clinical development of RNA LNP therapeutics will require an improved understanding of LNP cellular tropism within organs. The results from our work illustrate the importance of understanding the cellular localization of RNA delivery and incorporating further checkpoints when choosing nanoparticles beyond biochemical and physical characterization, as small changes in the chemical composition of LNPs can have an impact on both the biofate of LNPs and therapeutic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3973-3986
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 7 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer therapy
  • cell tropism
  • lipid nanoparticles
  • protein corona
  • RNA delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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