Theranostics 2020; 10(18):8250-8263. doi:10.7150/thno.45803

Research Paper

pH-responsive DNA nanomicelles for chemo-gene synergetic therapy of anaplastic large cell lymphoma

Yuwei Li1*, Shuzhen Yue1*, Jingyu Cao3, Chengzhan Zhu3, Yixiu Wang3, Xin Hai1, Weiling Song2, Sai Bi1✉

1. Research Center for Intelligent and Wearable Technology, College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Qingdao University, Qingdao 266071, P. R. China.
2. Laboratory of Optic-electric Sensing and Analytical Chemistry for Life Science, MOE, Shandong Key Laboratory of Biochemical Analysis, Key Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry for Life Science in Universities of Shandong, College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering, Qingdao University of Science and Technology, Qingdao 266042, P. R. China.
3. Department of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery, Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University, Qingdao 266003, P. R. China.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Li Y, Yue S, Cao J, Zhu C, Wang Y, Hai X, Song W, Bi S. pH-responsive DNA nanomicelles for chemo-gene synergetic therapy of anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Theranostics 2020; 10(18):8250-8263. doi:10.7150/thno.45803. Available from

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Chemo-gene therapy is an emerging synergetic modality for the treatment of cancers. Herein, we developed pH-responsive multifunctional DNA nanomicelles (DNMs) as delivery vehicles for controllable release of doxorubicin (Dox) and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-specific siRNA for the chemo-gene synergetic therapy of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

Methods: DNMs were synthesized by performing in situ rolling circle amplification (RCA) on the amphiphilic primer-polylactide (PLA) micelles, followed by functionalization of pH-responsive triplex DNA via complementary base pairing. The anticancer drug Dox and ALK-specific siRNA were co-loaded to construct Dox/siRNA/DNMs for chemo-gene synergetic cancer therapy. When exposed to the acidic microenvironment (pH below 5.0), C-G·C+ triplex structures were formed, leading to the release of Dox and siRNA for gene silencing to enhance the chemosensitivity in ALCL K299 cells. The chemo-gene synergetic anticancer effect of Dox/siRNA/DNMs on ALCL was evaluated in vitro and in vivo.

Results: The pH-responsive DNMs exhibited good monodispersity at different pH values, good biocompatibility, high drug loading capacity, and excellent stability even in the human serum. With the simultaneous release of anticancer drug Dox and ALK-specific siRNA in response to pH in the tumor microenvironment, the Dox/siRNA/DNMs demonstrated significantly higher treatment efficacy for ALCL compared with chemotherapy alone, because the silencing of ALK gene expression mediated by siRNA increased the chemosensitivity of ALCL cells. From the pathological analysis of tumor tissue, the Dox/siRNA/DNMs exhibited the superiority in inhibiting tumor growth, low toxic side effects and good biosafety.

Conclusion: DNMs co-loaded with Dox and ALK-specific siRNA exhibited significantly enhanced apoptosis of ALCL K299 cells in vitro and effectively inhibited tumor growth in vivo without obvious toxicity, providing a potential strategy in the development of nanomedicines for synergetic cancer therapy.

Keywords: DNA nanomicelles, pH stimuli, chemotherapy, gene therapy, anaplastic large cell lymphoma