Gene-editing by CRISPR-Cas9 in combination with anthracycline therapy via tumor microenvironment-switchable, EGFR-targeted, and nucleus-directed nanoparticles for head and neck cancer suppression

Chen Shen Wang, Chih Hsien Chang, Tsai Yu Tzeng, Anya Maan Yuh Lin, Yu Li Lo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Head and neck cancer (HNC) has a high incidence and a poor prognosis. Epirubicin, a topoisomerase inhibitor, is a potential anthracycline chemotherapeutic for HNC treatment. HuR (ELAVL1), an RNA-binding protein, plays a critical role in promoting tumor survival, invasion, and resistance. HuR knockout via CRISPR/Cas9 (HuR CRISPR) is a possible strategy for the simultaneous modulation of the various pathways of tumor progression. Multifunctional nanoparticles modified with pH-sensitive epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeting and nucleus-directed peptides were designed for the efficient delivery of HuR CRISPR and epirubicin to human tongue squamous carcinoma SAS cells and SAS tumor-bearing mice. The pH-sensitive nanoparticles responded to the acidic pH value as a switch to expose the targeting peptides. The cellular uptake and transfection efficiency of these nanoparticles in SAS cells increased via EGFR targeting, ligand-mediated endocytosis, and endosomal escape. These nanoparticles showed low cytotoxicity towards normal oral keratinocyte NOK cells. CRISPR/Cas9 was transported into the nucleus via the nuclear directing peptide and successfully knocked out HuR to suppress proliferation, metastasis, and resistance in SAS cells. The multiple inhibition of EGFR/β-catenin/epithelial-mesenchymal transition pathways was mediated through modulating the EGFR/PI3K/mTOR/AKT axis. The co-treatment of epirubicin and HuR CRISPR in SAS cells further facilitated apoptosis/necroptosis/autophagy and caused cancer cell death. In combination with HuR CRISPR nanoparticles, the efficacy and safety of epirubicin nanoparticles against cancer in SAS tumor-bearing mice improved significantly. Collectively, these nanoparticles showed a tumor pH response, active EGFR targeting, and nuclear localization and thus offered a combinatorial spatiotemporal platform for chemotherapy and the CRISPR/Cas gene-editing system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-743
Number of pages15
JournalNanoscale Horizons
Volume6
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021

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