A major impediment in the treatment of neurological diseases is the presence of the blood-brain barrier, which precludes the entry of therapeutic molecules from blood to brain. Here we show that a short peptide derived from rabies virus glycoprotein (RVG) enables the transvascular delivery of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to the brain. This 29-amino-acid peptide specifically binds to the acetylcholine receptor expressed by neuronal cells. To enable siRNA binding, a chimaeric peptide was synthesized by adding nonamer arginine residues at the carboxy terminus of RVG. This RVG-9R peptide was able to bind and transduce siRNA to neuronal cells in vitro, resulting in efficient gene silencing. After intravenous injection into mice, RVG-9R delivered siRNA to the neuronal cells, resulting in specific gene silencing within the brain. Furthermore, intravenous treatment with RVG-9R-bound antiviral siRNA afforded robust protection against fatal viral encephalitis in mice. Repeated administration of RVG-9R-bound siRNA did not induce inflammatory cytokines or anti-peptide antibodies. Thus, RVG-9R provides a safe and noninvasive approach for the delivery of siRNA and potentially other therapeutic molecules across the blood-brain barrier.
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