Oligonucleotide-functionalized gold nanoparticles for synchronous telomerase inhibition, radiosensitization, and delivery of theranostic radionuclides

Bas M. Bavelaar, Lei Song, Mark R. Jackson, Sarah Able, Ole Tietz, Irini Skaripa-Koukelli, Philip A. Waghorn, Martin R. Gill, Robert C. Carlisle, Madalena Tarsounas, Katherine A. Vallis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Telomerase represents an attractive target in oncology as it is expressed in cancer but not in normal tissues. The oligonucleotide inhibitors of telomerase represent a promising anticancer strategy, although poor cellular uptake can restrict their efficacy. In this study, gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) were used to enhance oligonucleotide uptake. "match" oligonucleotides complementary to the telomerase RNA template subunit (hTR) and "scramble" (control) oligonucleotides were conjugated to diethylenetriamine pentaacetate (DTPA) for 111In-labeling. AuNPs (15.5 nm) were decorated with a monofunctional layer of oligonucleotides (ON-AuNP) or a multifunctional layer of oligonucleotides, PEG(polethylene glycol)800-SH (to reduce AuNP aggregation) and the cell-penetrating peptide Tat (ON-AuNP-Tat). Match-AuNP enhanced the cellular uptake of radiolabeled oligonucleotides while retaining the ability to inhibit telomerase activity. The addition of Tat to AuNPs increased nuclear localization. 111In-Match-AuNP-Tat induced DNA double-strand breaks and caused a dose-dependent reduction in clonogenic survival of telomerase-positive cells but not telomerase-negative cells. hTR inhibition has been reported to sensitize cancer cells to ionizing radiation, and 111In-Match-AuNP-Tat therefore holds promise as a vector for delivery of radionuclides into cancer cells while simultaneously sensitizing them to the effects of the emitted radiation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3820-3831
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number10
Early online date27 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Auger electrons
  • gold nanoparticles
  • nanomedicine
  • targeted radionuclide therapy
  • telomerase


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