Sonoporation by microbubbles as gene therapy approach against liver cancer

Luca Rinaldi, Veronica Folliero, Luciana Palomba, Carla Zannella, Rachele Isticato, Raffaele Di Francia, Massimiliano Berretta, Ilario de Sio, Luigi E. Adinolfi, Giancarlo Morelli, Secondo Lastoria, Lucia Altucci, Carlo Pedone, Massimiliano Galdiero, Gianluigi Franci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: An innovative method, known as sonoporation, was used to induce the expression of silenced genes, such as (but not restricted to) TRAIL and p53, in liver cancer cells (HepG2). The principal aim of the present study was the reactivation of silenced apoptotic pathways in liver cancer models, by using diagnostic synovial microbubble as plasmid gene delivery tools in combination with epigenetic treatments. Material and methods: HepG2 cells were used as a liver cancer model. Microbubbles (Sonovue®) were chosen as gene deliver system in combination with the sonoporation approach. Plasmid pEGFP-TRAIL and pEGFP-p53 were selected and propagated in Escherichia coli grown in LB broth, in order to obtain the necessary amount. Results: Sonoporation was induced by using transducer (Sonitron 2000) and, among the several conditions tested, 3 MHz, 51% Duty Cycle, and 5 W/cm2, 30 s resulted as the best parameters. Data collected showed a dose dependent effect in terms of output energy. A transfection efficacy of 30 - 50% was achieved and recombinant gene expression induced apoptotic effects. In order to increase efficacy, we used the histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi, entinostat) MS-275, able to activate TRAIL and thus inducing a stronger pro-apoptotic effect in combination with TRAILgene re-expression. Conclusion: For the first time, it was shown the possibility to induce the exogenous expression of the pro-apoptotic gene TRAIL and p53 in a liver cancer HepG2 cells via a sonoporation procedure. The epigenetic treatment using HDACi was able to increase the pro-apoptotic effects of the gene therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32182-32190
Number of pages9
Issue number63
Publication statusPublished - Aug 14 2018


  • Gene therapy
  • Liver cancer
  • Microbubbles
  • Sonoporation
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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