Investigation of pH-Responsiveness inside Lipid Nanoparticles for Parenteral mRNA Application Using Small-Angle X-ray Scattering

Lukas Uebbing, Antje Ziller, Christian Siewert, Martin A. Schroer, Clement E. Blanchet, Dmitri I. Svergun, Srinivas Ramishetti, Dan Peer, Ugur Sahin, Heinrich Haas, Peter Langguth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)-based nanomedicines have shown to be a promising new lead in a broad field of potential applications such as tumor immunotherapy. Of these nanomedicines, lipid-based mRNA nanoparticles comprising ionizable lipids are gaining increasing attention as versatile technologies for fine-tuning toward a given application, with proven potential for successful development up to clinical practice. Still, several hurdles have to be overcome to obtain a drug product that shows adequate mRNA delivery and clinical efficacy. In this study, pH-induced changes in internal molecular organization and overall physicochemical characteristics of lipoplexes comprising ionizable lipids were investigated using small-angle X-ray scattering and supplementary techniques. These changes were determined for different types of ionizable lipids, present at various molar fractions and N/P ratios inside the phospholipid membranes. The investigated systems showed a lamellar organization, allowing an accurate determination of pH-dependent structural changes. The differences in the pH responsiveness of the systems comprising different ionizable lipids and mRNA fractions could be clearly revealed from their structural evolution. Measurements of the degree of ionization and pH-dependent mRNA loading into the systems by fluorescence assays supported the findings from the structural investigation. Our approach allows for direct in situ determination of the structural response of the lipoplex systems to changes of the environmental pH similar to that observed for endosomal uptake. These data therefore provide valuable complementary information for understanding and fine-tuning of tailored mRNA delivery systems toward improved cellular uptake and endosomal processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13331-13341
Number of pages11
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 10 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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