Dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE), a neutral lipid, is often used in conjunction with cationic lipids because of its membrane destabilizing effects at low pH, which aide in endolysosomal escape . Many cationic lipid compounds
have been formulated since the advent of DOTMA [27–31]. Each lipid has different structural aspects, such as head group size and hydrocarbon tail length. These aspects confer distinct characteristics to the lipid/DNA complex, which in turn affect association with and uptake into the cell. However, the basic structure of cationic lipids Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical mimics the chemical and physical attributes of biological lipids . The positive charge on the head group facilitates spontaneous electrostatic interaction with DNA, as well as binding of the resulting lipoplexes to the negatively charged components of the cell membrane prior to find more cellular uptake [33, 34]. The use of a cation is a recurring theme for virtually Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical all chemically mediated gene Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical delivery vectors, including polymers, lipids, and nondegradable nanoparticles. Between 8–18 carbons commonly comprise the hydrocarbon tails of lipids used for gene delivery. The tails are typically saturated, but a single double bond is occasionally seen. The combination
of hydrocarbon chains in a lipid mixture can be symmetric or asymmetric. It has been shown that certain asymmetric lipid mixtures with both shorter saturated carbon Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical chains and long unsaturated carbon chains produce relatively high transfection efficiencies as compared to mixed formulations of symmetric cationic lipids . Hydrophobic tails are not the only liposomal features that play a role in effective gene delivery—ionizable head groups are also involved. Some examples are the
multivalent cationic lipids DOSPA and DOGS (covered in Section 3.2); both of which have a functionalized spermine head group that confers the ability to act as a buffer, such as in the case where there is an influx of protons Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical into a maturing endosome/endolysosome Ketanserin . Such buffering could extend the amount of time needed to activate acid hydrolases and could explain why some multivalent cationic lipids can exhibit higher transfection efficiencies versus their monovalent counterparts [25, 37]. 3.1. Monovalent Cationic Lipids 3.1.1. DOTMA (see Figure 3) Figure 3 The structure of DOTMA. N-[1-(2,3-dioleyloxy) propyl]-N,N,N-trimethylammonium chloride, or DOTMA, was one of the first synthesized and commercially available cationic lipids used for gene delivery. Its structure consists of 2 unsaturated oleoyl chains (C18:Δ9), bound by an ether bond to the three-carbon skeleton of a glycerol, with a quaternary amine as the cationic head group .