Targeting and monitoring ovarian cancer invasion with an RNAi and peptide delivery system

Liangliang Hao, Natalie Boehnke, Susanna K. Elledge, Nour Saïda Harzallah, Renee T. Zhao, Eva Cai, Yu Xiong Feng, Sofia Neaher, Heather E. Fleming, Piyush B. Gupta, Paula T. Hammond, Sangeeta N. Bhatia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics are an emerging class of medicines that selectively target mRNA transcripts to silence protein production and combat disease. Despite the recent progress, a generalizable approach for monitoring the efficacy of RNAi therapeutics without invasive biopsy remains a challenge. Here, we describe the development of a self-reporting, theranostic nanoparticle that delivers siRNA to silence a protein that drives cancer progression while also monitoring the functional activity of its downstream targets. Our therapeutic target is the transcription factor SMARCE1, which was previously identified as a key driver of invasion in early-stage breast cancer. Using a doxycycline-inducible shRNA knockdown in OVCAR8 ovarian cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo, we demonstrate that SMARCE1 is a master regulator of genes encoding proinvasive proteases in a model of human ovarian cancer. We additionally map the peptide cleavage profiles of SMARCE1-regulated proteases so as to design a readout for downstream enzymatic activity. To demonstrate the therapeutic and diagnostic potential of our approach, we engineered self-assembled layer-by-layer nanoparticles that can encapsulate nucleic acid cargo and be decorated with peptide substrates that release a urinary reporter upon exposure to SMARCE1-related proteases. In an orthotopic ovarian cancer xenograft model, theranostic nanoparticles were able to knockdown SMARCE1 which was in turn reported through a reduction in protease-activated urinary reporters. These LBL nanoparticles both silence gene products by delivering siRNA and noninvasively report on downstream target activity by delivering synthetic biomarkers to sites of disease, enabling dose-finding studies as well as longitudinal assessments of efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e2307802121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 12 2024


  • Layer-by-layer assembly
  • proteases
  • RNAi delivery
  • synthetic biomarker
  • theranostics

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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