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Exploring PAZ/3'-overhang interaction to improve siRNA specificity. A combined experimental and modeling study

Alagia, A., Jorge, A.F., Aviñó, A., Cova, T.F.G.G., Crehuet, R., Grijalvo, S., Pais, A.A.C.C., Eritja, R.

Chemical Science, 9 (8), pp. 2074-2086. 2018

 The understanding of the dynamical and mechanistic aspects that lie behind siRNA-based gene regulation is a requisite to boost the performance of siRNA therapeutics. A systematic experimental and computational study on the 3'-overhang structural requirements for the design of more specific and potent siRNA molecules was carried out using nucleotide analogues differing in structural parameters, such as sugar constraint, lack of nucleobase, distance between the phosphodiester backbone and nucleobase, enantioselectivity, and steric hindrance. The results established a set of rules governing the siRNA-mediated silencing, indicating that the thermodynamic stability of the 5'-end is a crucial determinant for antisense-mediated silencing but is not sufficient to avoid sense-mediated silencing. Both theoretical and experimental approaches consistently evidence the existence of a direct connection between the PAZ/3'-overhang binding affinity and siRNA’s potency and specificity. An overall description of the systems is thus achieved by atomistic simulations and free energy calculations that allow us to propose a robust and self-contained procedure for studying the factors implied in PAZ/3'-overhang siRNA interactions. A higher RNAi activity is associated with a moderate-to-strong PAZ/3'-overhang binding. Contrarily, lower binding energies compromise siRNA potency, increase specificity, and favor siRNA downregulation by Ago2-independent mechanisms. This work provides in-depth details for the design of powerful and safe synthetic nucleotide analogues for substitution at the 3'-overhang, enabling some of the intrinsic siRNA disadvantages to be overcome.


Effect of Surface Chemistry and Associated Protein Corona on the Long-Term Biodegradation of Iron Oxide Nanoparticles In Vivo

Stepien, G., Moros, M., Pérez-Hernández, M., Monge, M., Gutiérrez, L., Fratila, R.M., Las Heras, M.D., Menao Guillén, S., Puente Lanzarote, J.J., Solans, C., Pardo, J., De La Fuente, J.M.

ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, 10 (5), pp. 4548-4560. 2018

 The protein corona formed on the surface of a nanoparticle in a biological medium determines its behavior in vivo. Herein, iron oxide nanoparticles containing the same core and shell, but bearing two different surface coatings, either glucose or poly(ethylene glycol), were evaluated. The nanoparticles’ protein adsorption, in vitro degradation, and in vivo biodistribution and biotransformation over four months were investigated. Although both types of nanoparticles bound similar amounts of proteins in vitro, the differences in the protein corona composition correlated to the nanoparticles biodistribution in vivo. Interestingly, in vitro degradation studies demonstrated faster degradation for nanoparticles functionalized with glucose, whereas the in vivo results were opposite with accelerated biodegradation and clearance of the nanoparticles functionalized with poly(ethylene glycol). Therefore, the variation in the degradation rate observed in vivo could be related not only to the molecules attached to the surface, but also with the associated protein corona, as the key role of the adsorbed proteins on the magnetic core degradation has been demonstrated in vitro.


Oleic acid chlorohydrin, a new early biomarker for the prediction of acute pancreatitis severity in humans

de-Madaria, E., Molero, X., Bonjoch, L., Casas, J., Cárdenas-Jaén, K., Montenegro, A., Closa, D.

Annals of Intensive Care, 2018, 8:1

 Background The early prediction of the severity of acute pancreatitis still represents a challenge for clinicians. Experimental studies have revealed the generation of specific halogenated lipids, in particular oleic acid chlorohydrin, in the early stages of acute pancreatitis. We hypothesized that the levels of circulating oleic acid chlorohydrin might be a useful early prognostic biomarker in acute pancreatitis in humans. Methods In a prospective, multicenter cohort study, plasma samples collected within 24 h after presentation in the emergency room from 59 patients with acute pancreatitis and from 9 healthy subjects were assessed for oleic acid chlorohydrin levels. Results Pancreatitis was mild in 30 patients, moderately severe in 16 and severe in 13. Oleic acid chlorohydrin levels within 24 h after presentation were significantly higher in patients that later progressed to moderate and severe acute pancreatitis. Using 7.49 nM as the cutoff point, oleic acid chlorohydrin distinguished mild from moderately severe-to-severe pancreatitis with high sensitivity/specificity (96.6/90.0%) and positive/negative predictive values (90.3/96.4%). Using 32.40 nM as the cutoff value sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values were all 100% for severe acute pancreatitis. It was found to be a better prognostic marker than BISAP score, hematocrit at 48 h, SIRS at admission, persistent SIRS or C-reactive protein at 48 h. Conclusions Oleic acid chlorohydrin concentration in plasma is elevated in patients with acute pancreatitis on admission and correlates with a high degree with the final severity of the disease, indicating that it has potential to serve as an early prognostic marker for acute pancreatitis severity.


Application of an assay Cascade methodology for a deep preclinical characterization of polymeric nanoparticles as a treatment for gliomas

Fornaguera, C., Lázaro, M.Á., Brugada-Vilà, P., Porcar, I., Morera, I., Guerra-Rebollo, M., Garrido, C., Rubio, N., Blanco, J., Cascante, A., Borrós, S.

Drug Delivery, 25 (1), pp. 472-483. 2018

 Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most devastating primary brain tumor due to its infiltrating and diffuse growth characteristics, a situation compounded by the lack of effective treatments. Currently, many efforts are being devoted to find novel formulations to treat this disease, specifically in the nanomedicine field. However, due to the lack of comprehensive characterization that leads to insufficient data on reproducibility, only a reduced number of nanomedicines have reached clinical phases. In this context, the aim of the present study was to use a cascade of assays that evaluate from physical-chemical and structural properties to biological characteristics, both in vitro and in vivo, and also to check the performance of nanoparticles for glioma therapy. An amphiphilic block copolymer, composed of polyester and poly(ethylene glycol; PEG) blocks, has been synthesized. Using a mixture of this copolymer and a polymer containing an active targeting moiety to the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB; Seq12 peptide), biocompatible and biodegradable polymeric nanoparticles have been prepared and extensively characterized. In vitro studies demonstrated that nanoparticles are safe for normal cells but cytotoxic for cancer cells. In vivo studies in mice demonstrated the ability of the Seq12 peptide to cross the BBB. Finally, in vivo efficacy studies using a human tumor model in SCID mice resulted in a significant 50% life-span increase, as compared with non-treated animals. Altogether, this assay cascade provided extensive pre-clinical characterization of our polymeric nanoparticles, now ready for clinical evaluation.


Stability, biocompatibility and antioxidant activity of PEG-modified liposomes containing resveratrol

Caddeo, C., Pucci, L., Gabriele, M., Carbone, C., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Valenti, D., Pons, R., Vassallo, A., Fadda, A.M., Manconi, M.

International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 538 (1-2), pp. 40-47., 2018


The present investigation reports the development of PEG-modified liposomes for the delivery of naturally occurring resveratrol. PEG-modified liposomes were prepared by direct sonication of the phospholipid aqueous dispersion, in the presence of two PEG-surfactants. Small, spherical, unilamellar vesicles were produced, as demonstrated by light scattering, cryo-TEM, and SAXS. The aging of the vesicles was assessed by using the Turbiscan® technology, and their physical stability was evaluated in vitro in simulated body fluids, results showing that the key features of the liposomes were preserved. The biocompatibility of the formulations was demonstrated in an ex vivo model of hemolysis in human erythrocytes. Further, the incorporation of resveratrol in PEG-modified liposomes did not affect its intrinsic antioxidant activity, as DPPH radical was almost completely inhibited, and the vesicles were also able to ensure an optimal protection against oxidative stress in an ex vivo human erythrocytes-based model. Therefore, the proposed PEG-modified liposomes, which were prepared by a simple and reliable method, represent an interesting approach to safely deliver resveratrol, ensuring the preservation of the carrier structural integrity in the biological fluids, and the antioxidant efficacy of the polyphenol to be exploited against oxidative stress associated with cancer.


Evaluation of markers out of the steroid profile for the screening of testosterone misuse. Part II: Intramuscular administration

Kotronoulas, A., Gomez-Gómez, A., Fabregat, A., Segura, J., Yang, S.h, Xing, Y., Moutian, W., Marcos, J., Joglar, J., Ventura, R., Pozo, O.J.

Drug Testing and Analysis, 2017

In the fight against doping, the introduction of alternative markers to the steroid profile can be considered as an effective approach to improve the screening capabilities for the detection of testosterone (T) misuse. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential of several T metabolites (cysteinyl conjugated and glucuronoconjugated resistant to enzymatic hydrolysis) to detect both the transdermal and the intramuscular administration of T. In Part I of the study, we studied the potential of these metabolites for the detection of T transdermal administration. Results revealed that resistant glucuronides can be a suitable complement to the current steroid profile. In this, Part II, dedicated to the intramuscular administration, we studied the potential of cysteinyl conjugated, resistant glucuronoconjugated and 1-cyclopentenoylglycine (1-CPG) for the detection of a single intramuscular injection of T cypionate. Possible differences in the excretion profile of all markers were explored between individuals with low basal (n=6) and medium basal (n=6) values of the testosterone/epitestosterone ratio (T/E). The results showed that all tested markers presented low intra-individual stability in basal conditions. Despite this, all glucuronoconjugated markers and 1-CPG, but not the cysteinyl conjugated markers, provided detection windows that were similar or longer than those obtained by markers currently included in the steroid profile. Based on the results obtained from the 2 parts of this study and from previously reported data, the potential applicability and the limitations of including these markers in the steroid profile are discussed.

Evaluation of markers out of the steroid profile for the screening of testosterone misuse. Part I: Transdermal administration

Kotronoulas, A., Gomez-Gómez, A., Fabregat, A., Segura, J., Yang, S.h, Xing, Y., Moutian, W., Marcos, J., Joglar, J., Ventura, R., Pozo, O.J.

Drug Testing and Analysis, 2017

Although the introduction by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of the steroid module of the athlete biological passport (ABP) marked an important step forward in the screening of testosterone (T) misuse, it still remains one of the most difficult challenges in doping control analysis. The urinary determination of alternative markers has been recently reported as a promising tool for improving the screening of T oral administration. However, their evaluation for other, commonly used, administration routes is still required. The main goal of this study is the evaluation of the potential of 2 groups of metabolites (cysteinyl conjugated and glucuronoconjugated) after transdermal and intramuscular administration of T. Their suitability was evaluated in individuals with both low basal (L-T/E) and medium basal (M-T/E) values of T/E. In this Part I, we evaluated the urinary excretion profile of these 2 groups of T metabolites after the administration of 3 doses of T gel to 12 volunteers (6 L-T/E and 6 M-T/E) for 3 consecutive days. For this purpose, 9 different concentration ratios (5 cysteinyl conjugated and 4 glucuronoconjugated markers) were studied. Both, the intra-individual variability and the detection windows (DW) obtained by each ratio were evaluated. Cysteinyl conjugates showed a general low intra-individual variability and DWs that were shorter than any other tested marker. Despite the relatively large intra-individual variability, the DWs reached by glucuronoconjugates (2–3 days) were similar to those obtained by markers currently included in the ABP. Overall; this evaluation advises for the introduction of additional glucuronoconjugated markers in the screening of transdermal T administration.

Nutriosomes: prebiotic delivery systems combining phospholipids, a soluble dextrin and curcumin to counteract intestinal oxidative stress and inflammation

Díez-Sales, O., Peris, J.E., Pons, R., Escribano-Ferrer, E., Fadda, A.M., Manconi, M.

Nanoscale, 10, 4, 1957-1969, 2018

Nutriosomes, new phospholipid nanovesicles specifically designed for intestinal protection were developed by simultaneously loading a water-soluble dextrin (Nutriose® FM06) and a natural antioxidant (curcumin). Nutriosomes were easily fabricated in a one-step, organic solvent-free procedure. The stability and delivery performances of the vesicles were improved by adding hydroxypropyl methylcellulose. All the vesicles were small in size (mean diameter ∼168 nm), negatively charged (zeta potential ∼−38 mV, irrespective of their composition), and self-assembled predominantly in unilamellar vesicles stabilized by the presence of Nutriose®, which was located in both the inter-lamellar and inter-vesicle media, as confirmed by cryo-TEM and SAXS investigation. The dextrin acted also as a cryo-protector, avoiding vesicle collapse during the lyophilization process, and as a protector against high ionic strength and pH changes encountered in the gastrointestinal environment. Thanks to the antioxidant properties of curcumin, nutriosomes provided an optimal protective effect against hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress in Caco-2 cells. Moreover, these innovative vesicles showed promising efficacy in vivo, as they improved the bioavailability and the biodistribution of both curcumin and dextrin upon oral administration, which acted synergically in reducing colonic damage chemically induced in rats.


Quantification of interacting cognate odorants with olfactory receptors in nanovesicles

Marta Sanmartí-Espinal, Patrizia Iavicoli, Annalisa Calò, Marta Taulés, Roger Galve, M. Pilar Marco & Josep Samitier

Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 17483 (2017)

This study aims to improve our understanding of the interaction between olfactory receptors and odorants to develop highly selective biosensing devices. Natural nanovesicles (NVs) from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, ~100 nm in diameter, carrying either the human OR17-40 or the chimpanzee OR7D4 olfactory receptor (OR) tagged with the c-myc epitope at their N-terminus, are presented as model systems to quantify the interaction between odorant and olfactory receptors. The level of expression of olfactory receptors was determined at individual NVs using a novel competitive ELISA immunoassay comparing the values obtained against those from techniques involving the solubilization of cell membrane proteins and the identification of c-myc-carrying receptors. Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) measurements on L1 Biacore chips indicate that cognate odorants bind to their Ors, thereby quantifying the approximate number of odorants that interact with a given olfactory receptor. The selectivity of OR17-40-carrying NVs towards helional and OR7D4-carrying NVs towards androstenone has been proven in cross-check experiments with non-specific odorant molecules (heptanal and pentadecalactone, respectively) and in control receptors.


Impacts of cloud water droplets on the OH production rate from peroxide photolysis

M. T. C. Martins-Costa, J. M. Anglada, J. S. Francisco and Manuel F. Ruiz-López

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 19, 31621-31627, 2017

Understanding the difference between observed and modeled concentrations of HOx radicals in the troposphere is a current major issue in atmospheric chemistry. It is widely believed that existing atmospheric models miss a source of such radicals and several potential new sources have been proposed. In recent years, interest has increased on the role played by cloud droplets and organic aerosols. Computer modeling of ozone photolysis, for instance, has shown that atmospheric aqueous interfaces accelerate the associated OH production rate by as much as 3–4 orders of magnitude. Since methylhydroperoxide is a main source and sink of HOx radicals, especially at low NOx concentrations, it is fundamental to assess what is the influence of clouds on its chemistry and photochemistry. In this study, computer simulations for the photolysis of methylhydroperoxide at the air–water interface have been carried out showing that the OH production rate is severely enhanced, reaching a comparable level to ozone photolysis.


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