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Mitochondrial localisation and cellular uptake in vitro using novel ‘mitochondriotropic’ liposomes.

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Mitochondrial research has made tremendous strides since the 1980/90s when mitochondrial DNA mutations were first identified as a primary cause for human diseases and the organelle’s role in apoptosis was elucidated. These mutations of the mitochondrial genome have been implicated in a spectrum of clinical disorders especially involving the muscle and central nervous system. This makes the mitochondrion a prime candidate for organelle-specific delivery of exogenous materials such as therapeutic DNA and drugs, for therapy of diseases caused by mitochondrial dysfunction. However, reports of mitochondrial targeted delivery systems are limited. Hence vector design and development is of paramount importance. The success of liposomes viz. cationic liposomes, in chromosomal gene therapy make them potential vectors for mitochondrial gene targeting. In this investigation novel ‘mitochondriotropic’ liposomes were synthesised to evaluate their cellular uptake and mitochondrial localisation activity in vitro using four different mammalian cell culture models. Cationic cholesterol derivative, 3β [N-(N’,N’-dimethylaminopropane)-carbamoyl] cholesterol (CHOL-T) was formulated with dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE) to produce cationic liposomes, to which a mitochondrial targeting sequence (MTS) and octaarginine (R8) peptides were attached via two different novel cholesterol-derived cross-linking agents. Size, zeta potential, shape and lamellarity of liposomes and corresponding lipoplexes were assessed by the innovative technique, Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA) and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy. Their ability to bind, condense and protect plasmid DNA (pCMV-luc), was determined using the band shift, dye displacement and nuclease protection assays repectively. In vitro cytotoxicity and mechanism of cell death prompted by these novel liposomal preparations was determined using the MTT, AlamarBlue® and acridine orange and ethidium bromide (AO/EB) dual staining assays respectively, in the hepatocyte-derived human cell line (HepG2), human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293), the human intestinal cell line (Caco-2) and human cervical carcinoma (HeLa-Tat luc) cells. Fluorescently labelled DNA was used to determine cellular uptake and mitochondrial targeting and localisation ability of these cationic mitochondriotropic liposomal formulations in the target organelles, mitochondria using fluorescence microscopy and the quantitative evaluation of fluorescence in the mitochondrial fraction of cell homogenate cocktails. These mitochondriotropic liposomes successfully bind, condense and protect plasmid DNA in the presence of serum, are fairly well tolerated by all cell lines tested in culture with cell death observed to be apoptotic and not necrotic in nature. The liposomes were shown to successfully enhance cellular uptake in all cell culture models tested. Furthermore, results demonstrate positive mitochondrial targeting and localisation activity facilitated by the presence of MTS peptide and a combination of MTS and R8 peptides on the liposomal surface for all four of these novel liposomal nanovectors.


Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry. University of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban, 2016.