Folate-decorated PEGylated triblock copolymer as a pH/reduction dual-responsive nanovehicle for targeted intracellular co-delivery of doxorubicin and Bcl-2 siRNA

Aili Suo, Junmin Qian, Minghui Xu, Weijun Xu, Yaping Zhang, Yu Yao
Materials Science & Engineering. C, Materials for Biological Applications 2017 July 1, 76: 659-672
Co-delivery of chemotherapeutic drug and small interfering RNA (siRNA) within a single nanovehicle has emerged as a promising combination therapy approach to treating cancers because of their synergistic effect. Nanocarrier delivery systems with low cytotoxicity and high efficiency are needed for such a purpose. In this study, a novel folate-conjugated PEGylated cationic triblock copolymer, poly(acrylhydrazine)-block-poly(3-dimethylaminopropyl methacrylamide)-block-poly(acrylhydrazine) (PAH-b-PDMAPMA-b-PAH), was synthesized and evaluated as a stimuli-sensitive vehicle for the targeted co-delivery of doxorubicin (DOX) and Bcl-2 siRNA into breast cancer MCF-7 cells. The synthetic process of the PEGylated triblock copolymer involved sequential reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerization, PEGylation and removal of tert-butoxy carbamate protecting groups. Folate-conjugated and/or -unconjugated poly(ethylene glycol) segments were grafted onto PAH-b-PDMAPMA-b-PAH via a reduction-sensitive disulfide linkage. The synthetic polymers were characterized by 1 H NMR and gel permeation chromatography. The PEGylated triblock copolymer could chemically conjugate DOX onto PAH blocks via pH-responsive hydrazone bonds and simultaneously complex negatively charged Bcl-2 siRNA with cationic PDMAPMA blocks through electrostatic interactions at N/P ratios≥32:1 to form multifunctional nanomicelleplexes. The nanomicelleplexes exhibited spherical shape, possessed a positively charged surface with a zeta potential of +22.5mV and had a desirable and uniform particle size of 187nm. In vitro release studies revealed that the nanomicelleplexes could release DOX and Bcl-2 siRNA in a reduction and pH dual-sensitive manner and the payload release was significantly enhanced in a reductive acidic environment mimicking the endosomes/lysosomes of cancer cells compared to under physiology conditions. Furthermore, the release of both DOX and siRNA was found to follow Higuchi kinetic model. Confocal laser scanning microscopy, flow cytometry and MTT analyses confirmed that, compared with folate-undecorated nanomicelleplexes, folate-decorated nanomicelleplexes could more effectively co-deliver DOX and Bcl-2 siRNA into MCF-7 cells and showed a stronger cell-killing effect. The pristine PEGylated triblock copolymer exhibited good cytocompatibility. Moreover, co-delivery of DOX and Bcl-2 siRNA achieved a significant synergistic antitumor efficacy. These findings suggested that the folate-decorated PEGylated cationic triblock copolymer might be a promising vehicle for targeted intracellular co-delivery of DOX and siRNA in MCF-7 cells, representing a potential clinical combination therapy for breast cancer treatment.

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