Synthesis and Characterization of Cleavable Core-Cross-Linked Micelles Based on Amphiphilic Block Copolypeptoids as Smart Drug Carriers

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© 2016 American Chemical Society. Amphiphilic block copolypeptoids consisting of a hydrophilic poly(N-ethyl glycine) segment and a hydrophobic poly[(N-propargyl glycine)-r-(N-decyl glycine)] random copolymer segment [PNEG-b-P(NPgG-r-NDG), EPgD] have been synthesized by sequential primary amine-initiated ring-opening polymerization (ROP) of the corresponding N-alkyl N-carboxyanhydride monomers. The block copolypeptoids form micelles in water and the micellar core can be cross-linked with a disulfide-containing diazide cross-linker by copper-mediated alkyne-azide cycloaddition (CuAAC) in aqueous solution. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and dynamic light scattering (DLS) analysis revealed the formation of spherical micelles with uniform size for both the core-cross-linked micelles (CCLMs) and non-cross-linked micelles (NCLMs) precursors for selective block copolypeptoid polymers. The CCLMs exhibited increased dimensional stability relative to the NCLMs in DMF, a nonselective solvent for the core and corona segments. Micellar dissociation of CCLMs can be induced upon addition of a reducing agent (e.g., dithiothreitol) in dilute aqueous solutions, as verified by a combination of fluorescence spectroscopy, size exclusion chromatography (SEC), and 1H NMR spectroscopic measurement. Doxorubicin (DOX), an anticancer drug, can be loaded into the hydrophobic core of CCLMs with a maximal 23% drug loading capacity (DLC) and 37% drug loading efficiency (DLE). In vitro DOX release from the CCLMs can be triggered by DTT (10 mM), in contrast to significantly reduced DOX release in the absence of DTT, attesting to the reductively responsive characteristic of the CCLMs. While the CCLMs exhibited minimal cytotoxicity toward HepG2 cancer cells, DOX-loaded CCLMs inhibited the proliferation of the HepG2 cancer cells in a concentration and time dependent manner, suggesting the controlled release of DOX from the DOX-loaded CCLMS in the cellular environment.

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