SIRNA-aptamer chimeras have emerged as one of the most promising approaches for targeted delivery of siRNA due to the modularity of their diblock RNA structure, relatively lower cost over other targeted delivery approaches, and, most importantly, the outstanding potential for clinical translation. However, additional challenges must be addressed for efficient RNA interference (RNAi), in particular, endosomal escape. Currently, vast majority of siRNA delivery vehicles are based on cationic materials, which form complexes with negatively charged siRNA. Unfortunately, these approaches complicate the formulations again by forming large complexes with heterogeneous sizes, unfavorable surface charges, colloidal instability, and poor targeting ligand orientation. Here, we report the development of a small and simple protein tag that complements the therapeutic and targeting functionalities of chimera with two functional domains: a dsRNA binding domain (dsRBD) for siRNA docking and a pH-dependent polyhistidine to disrupt endosomal membrane. The protein selectively tags along the siRNA block of individual chimera, rendering the overall size of the complex small, desirable for deep tissue penetration, and the aptamer block accessible for target recognition. More interestingly, we found that extending the c-terminal polyhistidine segment in the protein tag to 18 amino acids completely abolishes the RNA binding function of dsRBD.
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