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Biomaterials. 2011 Jul;32(21):4959-67. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2011.03.049. Epub 2011 Apr 11.

Intracellular degradation and distribution of protein-encapsulated amphiphilic poly(amino acid) nanoparticles.

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Department of Applied Chemistry, Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University, 2-1 Yamadaoka, Suita 565-0871, Japan.


Physicochemical properties, such as particle size, shape, molecular weight, surface charge and composition, play a key role in the cellular uptake of polymeric nanoparticles. Antigen-encapsulated biodegradable nanoparticles have considerable potential for use in vaccine delivery systems. Although it is accepted that particle size is important for the induction of antigen-specific immune responses in vivo, little is known about how their size affects their intracellular fate. Here, we demonstrate that the size effects on the cellular uptake, intracellular degradation and distribution of protein-encapsulated nanoparticles. We prepared size-regulated ovalbumin (OVA)-encapsulated nanoparticles composed of hydrophobically modified poly(γ-glutamic acid) (γ-PGA). These nanoparticles were efficiently taken up by macrophages, and also delivered encapsulated OVA from the endosomes to the cytoplasm. Comparing 40-200 nm-sized nanoparticles, there was no significant difference in their intracellular distribution. Interestingly, the size of the nanoparticles affected the intracellular degradation of the encapsulated OVA. The uptake of OVA alone by macrophages resulted in early degradation of the OVA. In contrast, the degradation of OVA encapsulated into the nanoparticles was attenuated as compared to free OVA. A difference in OVA degradation kinetics was observed between the particle sizes, the degradation of small nanoparticles was slower than for the larger ones. These results indicate that particle size is an important factor for the intracellular degradation of encapsulated proteins and nanoparticles. These results will provide a rational design of nanoparticle-based vaccines to control immune responses.

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