Enhanced Performance of Plasmid DNA Polyplexes Stabilized by a Combination of Core Hydrophobicity and Surface PEGylation.

Adolph EJ, Nelson CE, Werfel TA, Guo R, Davidson JM, Guelcher SA, Duvall CL
J Mater Chem B. 2014 2 (46): 8154-8164

PMID: 25530856 · PMCID: PMC4269243 · DOI:10.1039/C4TB00352G

Nonviral gene therapy has high potential for safely promoting tissue restoration and for treating various genetic diseases. One current limitation is that conventional transfection reagents such as polyethylenimine (PEI) form electrostatically stabilized plasmid DNA (pDNA) polyplexes with poor colloidal stability. In this study, a library of poly(ethylene glycol-b-(dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate-co-butyl methacrylate)) [poly(EG-b-(DMAEMA-co-BMA))] polymers were synthesized and screened for improved colloidal stability and nucleic acid transfection following lyophilization. When added to pDNA in the appropriate pH buffer, the DMAEMA moieties initiate formation of electrostatic polyplexes that are internally stabilized by hydrophobic interactions of the core BMA blocks and sterically stabilized against aggregation by a PEG corona. The BMA content was varied from 0% to 60% in the second polymer block in order to optimally tune the balance of electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions in the polyplex core, and polymers with 40 and 50 mol% BMA achieved the highest transfection efficiency. Diblock copolymers were more stable than PEI in physiologic buffers. Consequently, diblock copolymer polyplexes aggregated more slowly and followed a reaction-limited colloidal aggregation model, while fast aggregation of PEI polyplexes was governed by a diffusion-limited model. Polymers with 40% BMA did not aggregate significantly after lyophilization and produced up to 20-fold higher transfection efficiency than PEI polyplexes both before and after lyophilization. Furthermore, poly(EG-b-(DMAEMA-co-BMA)) polyplexes exhibited pH-dependent membrane disruption in a red blood cell hemolysis assay and endosomal escape as observed by confocal microscopy.Lyophilized polyplexes made with the lead candidate diblock copolymer (40% BMA) also successfully transfected cells following incorporation into gas-foamed polymeric scaffolds. In summary, the enhanced colloidal stability, endosomal escape, and resultant high transfection efficiency of poly(EG-b-(DMAEMA-co-BMA))-pDNA polyplexes underscores their potential utility both for local delivery from scaffolds as well as systemic, intravenous delivery.

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