The chemistry of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) facilitates surface modifications and thus these bioengineered NPs have been investigated as a means of delivering a variety of therapeutic cargos to treat cancer. In this study we have developed AuNPs conjugated with targeting ligands to enhance cell-specific uptake in prostate cancer cells, with a purpose of providing efficient non-viral gene delivery systems in the treatment of prostate cancer. As a consequence, two novel AuNPs were synthesised namely AuNPs-PEG-Tf (negatively charged AuNPs with the transferrin targeting ligands) and AuNPs-PEI-FA (positively charged AuNPs with the folate-receptor targeting ligands). Both bioconjugated AuNPs demonstrated low cytotoxicity in prostate cancer cells. The attachment of the targeting ligand Tf to
AuNPs successfully achieved receptor-mediated cellular uptake in PC-3 cells, a prostate cancer cell line highly expressing Tf receptors. The AuNPs-PEI-FA effectively complexed small interfering RNA (siRNA) through electrostatic interaction. At the cellular level the AuNPs-PEI-FA specifically delivered siRNA into
LNCaP cells, a prostate cancer cell line overexpressing prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA, exhibits a hydrolase enzymic activity with a folate substrate). Following endolysosomal escape the AuNPs-PEI-FA.siRNA formulation produced enhanced endogenous gene silencing compared to the non-targeted formulation. Our results suggest both formulations have potential as non-viral gene delivery vectors in the treatment of prostate cancer.