Effective therapeutics are necessary for managing severe COVID-19 disease despite the availability of vaccines. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) can silence viral genes and restrict SARS-CoV-2 replication. Cell-penetrating peptides is a robust method for siRNA delivery, enhancing siRNA stability and targeting specific receptors. We developed a peptide HE25 that blocks SARS-CoV-2 replication by various mechanisms, including the binding of multiple receptors involved in the virus's internalization, such as ACE2, integrins and NRP1. HE25 not only acts as a vehicle to deliver the SARS-CoV-2 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase siRNA into cells but also facilitates their internalization through endocytosis. Once inside endosomes, the siRNA is released into the cytoplasm through the Histidine-proton sponge effect and the selective cleavage of HE25 by cathepsin B. These mechanisms effectively inhibited the replication of the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 and the Omicron variant BA.5 in vitro. When HE25 was administered in vivo, either by intravenous injection or inhalation, it accumulated in lungs, veins and arteries, endothelium, or bronchial structure depending on the route. Furthermore, the siRNA/HE25 complex caused gene silencing in lung cells in vitro. The SARS-CoV-2 siRNA/HE25 complex is a promising therapeutic for COVID-19, and a similar strategy can be employed to combat future emerging viral diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102227
JournalMolecular Therapy Nucleic Acids
Issue number3
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 10. Sept 2024


  • ACE2
  • cathepsin B
  • cell-penetrating peptide
  • COVID-19
  • integrins
  • MT: Oligonucleotides: Therapies and Applications
  • RGD
  • RNAi
  • SARS-Cov-2
  • siRNA


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