Structural evolution of environmentally responsive cationic liposome-DNA complexes with a reducible lipid linker

Rahau S. Shirazi, Kai K. Ewert, Bruno F.B. Silva, Cecilia Leal, Youli Li, Cyrus R. Safinya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmentally responsive materials (i.e., materials that respond to changes in their environment with a change in their properties or structure) are attracting increasing amounts of interest. We recently designed and synthesized a series of cleavable multivalent lipids (CMVLn, with n = 2-5 being the number of positive headgroup charges at full protonation) with a disulfide bond in the linker between their cationic headgroup and hydrophobic tails. The self-assembled complexes of the CMVLs and DNA are a prototypical environmentally responsive material, undergoing extensive structural rearrangement when exposed to reducing agents. We investigated the structural evolution of CMVL-DNA complexes at varied complex composition, temperature, and incubation time using small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS). A related lipid with a stable linker, TMVL4, was used as a control. In a nonreducing environment, CMVL-DNA complexes form the lamellar (L αC) phase, with DNA rods sandwiched between lipid bilayers. However, new self-assembled phases form when the disulfide linker is cleaved by dithiothreitol or the biologically relevant reducing agent glutathione. The released DNA and cleaved CMVL headgroups form a loosely organized phase, giving rise to a characteristic broad SAXS correlation profile. CMVLs with high headgroup charge also form condensed DNA bundles. Intriguingly, the cleaved hydrophobic tails of the CMVLs reassemble into tilted chain-ordered Lβ phases upon incubation at physiological temperature (37 °C), as indicated by characteristic WAXS peaks. X-ray scattering further reveals that two of the three phases (LβF, LβL, and LβI) constituting the Lβ phase coexist in these samples. The described system may have applications in lipid-based nanotechnologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10495-10503
Number of pages9
Issue number28
StatePublished - Jul 17 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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