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Biomacromolecules. 2011 Apr 11;12(4):1224-33. doi: 10.1021/bm101517x. Epub 2011 Feb 23.

Ketal cross-linked poly(ethylene glycol)-poly(amino acid)s copolymer micelles for efficient intracellular delivery of doxorubicin.

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  • 1Department of Life and Nanopharmaceutical Science, Kyung Hee University, 1 Hoegi-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 130-701, Korea.


A biocompatible, robust polymer micelle bearing pH-hydrolyzable shell cross-links was developed for efficient intracellular delivery of doxorubicin (DOX). The rationally designed triblock copolymer of poly(ethylene glycol)-poly(L-aspartic acid)-poly(L-phenylalanine) (PEG-PAsp-PPhe) self-assembled to form polymer micelles with three distinct domains of the PEG outer corona, the PAsp middle shell, and the PPhe inner core. Shell cross-linking was performed by the reaction of ketal-containing cross-linkers with Asp moieties in the middle shells. The shell cross-linking did not change the micelle size and the spherical morphology. Fluorescence quenching experiments confirmed the formation of shell cross-linked diffusion barrier, as judged by the reduced Stern-Volmer quenching constant (K(SV)). Dynamic light scattering and fluorescence spectroscopy experiments showed that shell cross-linking improved the micellar physical stability even in the presence of micelle disrupting surfactants, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). The hydrolysis kinetics study showed that the hydrolysis half-life (t(1/2)) of ketal cross-links was estimated to be 52 h at pH 7.4, whereas 0.7 h at pH 5.0, indicating the 74-fold faster hydrolysis at endosomal pH. Ketal cross-linked micelles showed the rapid DOX release at endosomal pH, compared to physiological pH. Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) showed that ketal cross-linked micelles were taken up by the MCF-7 breast cancer cells via endocytosis and transferred into endosomes to hydrolyze the cross-links by lowered pH and finally facilitate the DOX release to inhibit proliferation of cancer cells. This ketal cross-linked polymer micelle is promising for enhanced intracellular delivery efficiency of many hydrophobic anticancer drugs.

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