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Biomacromolecules. 2013 Jun 10;14(6):1961-70. doi: 10.1021/bm400342f. Epub 2013 May 20.

Influence of histidine incorporation on buffer capacity and gene transfection efficiency of HPMA-co-oligolysine brush polymers.

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Department of Bioengineering and Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute, University of Washington , 3720 15th Avenue NE, Box 355061, Seattle, Washington 98195, United States.


One of the major intracellular barriers to nonviral gene delivery is efficient endosomal escape. The incorporation of histidine residues into polymeric constructs has been found to increase endosomal escape via the proton sponge effect. Statistical and diblock copolymers of N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide (HPMA), oligolysine, and oligohistidine were synthesized via reversible-addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization and tested for in vitro transfection efficiency, buffering ability, and polyplex uptake mechanism via the use of chemical endocytic inhibitors. Interestingly, histidine-containing statistical and diblock polymers exhibited increased buffer capacity in different endosomal pH ranges. Statistical copolymers transfected better than block copolymers that contained similar amounts of histidine. In addition, only the polymer containing the highest incorporation of oligohistidine residues led to increases in transfection efficiency over the HPMA-oligolysine base polymer. Thus, for these polymer architectures, high histidine incorporation may be required for efficient endosomal escape. Furthermore, inhibitor studies indicate that nonacidified caveolae-mediated endocytosis may be the primary route of transfection for these copolymers, suggesting that alternative approaches for increasing endosomal escape may be beneficial for enhancing transfection efficiency with these HPMA-oligolysine copolymers.

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