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Bioconjug Chem. 2010 Oct 20;21(10):1779-87. doi: 10.1021/bc100049c.

Comparison of hydrazone heterobifunctional cross-linking agents for reversible conjugation of thiol-containing chemistry.

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Department of Chemistry, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1872, USA.


Reversible covalent conjugation chemistries that allow site- and condition-specific coupling and uncoupling reactions are attractive components in nanotechnologies, bioconjugation methods, imaging, and drug delivery systems. Here, we compare three heterobifunctional cross-linkers, containing both thiol- and amine-reactive chemistries, to form pH-labile hydrazones with hydrazide derivatives of the known and often published water-soluble polymer, poly[N-(2-hydroxypropyl methacrylamide)] (pHPMA), while subsequently coupling thiol-containing molecules to the cross-linker via maleimide addition. Two novel cross-linkers were prepared from the popular heterobifunctional cross-linking agent, succinimidyl-4-(N-maleimidomethyl) cyclohexane-1-carboxylate (SMCC), modified to contain either terminal aldehyde groups (i.e., 1-(N-3-propanal)-4-(N-maleimidomethyl) cyclohexane carboxamide, PMCA) or methylketone groups (i.e., 1-(N-3-butanone)-4-(N-maleimidomethyl) cyclohexane carboxamide, BMCA). A third cross-linking agent was the commercially available N-4-acetylphenyl maleimide (APM). PMCA and BMCA exhibited excellent reactivity toward hydrazide-derivatized pHPMA with essentially complete hydrazone conjugation to polymer reactive sites, while APM coupled only ∼60% of available reactive sites on the polymer despite a 3-fold molar excess relative to polymer hydrazide groups. All polymer hydrazone conjugates bearing these bifunctional agents were then further reacted with thiol-modified tetramethylrhodamine dye, confirming cross-linker maleimide reactivity after initial hydrazone polymer conjugation. Incubation of dye-labeled polymer conjugates in phosphate buffered saline at 37 °C showed that hydrazone coupling resulting from APM exhibited the greatest difference in stability between pH 7.4 and 5.0, with hydrolysis and dye release increased at pH 5.0 over a 24 h incubation period. Polymer conjugates bearing hydrazones formed from cross-linker BMCA exhibited intermediate stability with hydrolysis much greater at pH 5.0 at early time points, but hydrolysis at pH 7.4 was significant after 5 h. Hydrazones formed with the PMCA cross-linker showed no difference in release rates at pH 7.4 and 5.0.

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