Proteoid biodynamers for safe mRNA transfection via pH-responsive nanorods enabling endosomal escape

The recent success of mRNA vaccines using lipid-based vectors highlights the importance of strategies for nucleotide delivery under the pandemic situation. Although current mRNA delivery is focused on lipid-based vectors, still they need to be optimized for increasing stability, targeting, and efficiency, and for reducing toxicity. In this regard, other vector systems featuring smart strategies such as pH-responsive degradability and endosomal escape ability hold the potential to overcome the current limitations. Here, we report pH-responsive polymeric nanorods made of amino acid-derivatives connected by dynamic covalent bonds called proteoid-biodynamers, as mRNA vectors. They show excellent biocompatibility due to the biodegradation, and outstanding transfection. The biodynamers of Lys, His, and Arg or monomer mixtures thereof were shown to form nanocomplexes with mRNA. They outperformed conventional transfection agents three times regarding transfection efficacy in three human cell lines, with 82–98% transfection in living cells. Also, we confirmed that the biodynamers disrupted the endosomes up to 10-fold more in number than the conventional vectors. We discuss here their outstanding performance with a thorough analysis of their nanorod structure changes in endosomal microenvironments.