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J Control Release. 2010 Nov 20;148(1):91-100. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2010.07.112. Epub 2010 Jul 30.

Release of DNA from polyelectrolyte multilayers fabricated using 'charge-shifting' cationic polymers: tunable temporal control and sequential, multi-agent release.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1415 Engineering Drive, Madison, WI 53706, United States.
Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1415 Engineering Drive, Madison, WI 53706, United States; Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1415 Engineering Drive, Madison, WI 53706, United States. Electronic address:


We report an approach to the design of multilayered polyelectrolyte thin films (or 'polyelectrolyte multilayers', PEMs) that can be used to provide tunable control over the release of plasmid DNA (or multiple different DNA constructs) from film-coated surfaces. Our approach is based upon methods for the layer-by-layer assembly of DNA-containing thin films, and exploits the properties of a new class of cationic 'charge-shifting' polymers (amine functionalized polymers that undergo gradual changes in net charge upon side chain ester hydrolysis) to provide control over the rates at which these films erode and release DNA. We synthesized two 'charge-shifting' polymers (polymers 1 and 2) containing different side chain structures by ring-opening reactions of poly(2-alkenyl azlactone)s with two different tertiary amine functionalized alcohols (3-dimethylamino-1-propanol and 2-dimethylaminoethanol, respectively). Subsequent characterization revealed large changes in the rates of side chain ester hydrolysis for these two polymers; whereas the half-life for the hydrolysis of the esters in polymer 1 was ~200 days, the half-life for polymer 2 was ~6 days. We demonstrate that these large differences in side chain hydrolysis make possible the design of PEMs that erode and promote the surface-mediated release of DNA either rapidly (e.g., over ~3 days for films fabricated using polymer 2) or slowly (e.g., over ~1 month for films fabricated using polymer 1). We demonstrate further that it is possible to design films with release profiles that are intermediate to these two extremes by fabricating films using solutions containing different mixtures of these two polymers. This approach can thus expand the usefulness of these two polymers and achieve a broader range of DNA release profiles without the need to synthesize polymers with new structures or properties. Finally, we demonstrate that polymers 1 and 2 can be used to fabricate multilayered films with hierarchical structures that promote the sequential release of two different DNA constructs with separate and distinct release profiles (e.g., the release of a first construct over a period of ~3 days, followed by the sustained release of a second for a period of ~70 days). With further development, this approach could contribute to the design of functional thin films and surface coatings that provide sophisticated control over the timing and the order of the release of two or more DNA constructs (or other agents) of interest in a range of biomedical contexts.

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