'Stealth' corona-core nanoparticles surface modified by polyethylene glycol (PEG): influences of the corona (PEG chain length and surface density) and of the core composition on phagocytic uptake and plasma protein adsorption

Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces. 2000 Oct 1;18(3-4):301-313. doi: 10.1016/s0927-7765(99)00156-3.


Nanoparticles possessing poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) chains on their surface have been described as blood persistent drug delivery system with potential applications for intravenous drug administration. Considering the importance of protein interactions with injected colloidal dug carriers with regard to their in vivo fate, we analysed plasma protein adsorption onto biodegradable PEG-coated poly(lactic acid) (PLA), poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) and poly(varepsilon-caprolactone) (PCL) nanoparticles employing two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-D PAGE). A series of corona/core nanoparticles of sizes 160-270 nm were prepared from diblock PEG-PLA, PEG-PLGA and PEG-PCL and from PEG-PLA:PLA blends. The PEG Mw was varied from 2000-20000 g/mole and the particles were prepared using different PEG contents. It was thus possible to study the influence of the PEG corona thickness and density, as well as the influence of the nature of the core (PLA, PLGA or PCL), on the competitive plasma protein adsorption, zeta potential and particle uptake by polymorphonuclear (PMN) cells. 2-D PAGE studies showed that plasma protein adsorption on PEG-coated PLA nanospheres strongly depends on the PEG molecular weight (Mw) (i.e. PEG chain length at the particle surface) as well as on the PEG content in the particles (i.e. PEG chain density at the surface of the particles). Whatever the thickness or the density of the corona, the qualitative composition of the plasma protein adsorption patterns was very similar, showing that adsorption was governed by interaction with a PLA surface protected more or less by PEG chains. The main spots on the gels were albumin, fibrinogen, IgG, Ig light chains, and the apolipoproteins apoA-I and apoE. For particles made of PEG-PLA45K with different PEG Mw, a maximal reduction in protein adsorption was found for a PEG Mw of 5000 g/mole. For nanospheres differing in their PEG content from 0.5 to 20 wt %, a PEG content between 2 and 5 wt % was determined as a threshold value for optimal protein resistance. When increasing the PEG content in the nanoparticles above 5 wt % no further reduction in protein adsorption was achieved. Phagocytosis by PMN studied using chemiluminescence and zeta potential data agreed well with these findings: the same PEG surface density threshold was found to ensure simultaneously efficient steric stabilization and to avoid the uptake by PMN cells. Supposing all the PEG chains migrate to the surface, this would correspond to a distance of about 1.5 nm between two terminally attached PEG chains in the covering 'brush'. Particles from PEG5K-PLA45K, PEG5K-PLGA45K and PEG5K-PCL45K copolymers enabled to study the influence of the core on plasma protein adsorption, all other parameters (corona thickness and density) being kept constant. Adsorption patterns were in good qualitative agreement with each other. Only a few protein species were exclusively present just on one type of nanoparticle. However, the extent of proteins adsorbed differed in a large extent from one particle to another. In vivo studies could help elucidating the role of the type and amount of proteins adsorbed on the fate of the nanoparticles after intraveinous administration, as a function of the nature of their core. These results could be useful in the design of long circulating intravenously injectable biodegradable drug carriers endowed with protein resistant properties and low phagocytic uptake.