Intracellular drug delivery by nanoparticles is often hampered by their endosomal entrapment followed by their degradation in the lysosomal compartment and/or exocytosis. Here, we show that internalization and endosomal escape of cargoes in a cationized natural nanocarrier, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), can be controlled in a pH-dependent manner through stable complexation with a membranolytic anionic block polymer. A genetically and chemically cationized form of HDL (catHDL) is prepared for the first time by both genetic fusion with YGRKKRRQRRR peptide and incorporation of 1,2-dioleoyloxy-3-(trimethylammonium)propane. Upon addition of poly(ethylene glycol)-block-poly(propyl methacrylate-co-methacrylic acid) (PA), catHDL yields inhibition of internalization at neutral pH and its subsequent recovery at mildly acidic pH. catHDL forms a stable discoidal-shape complex with PA (catHDL/PA) (ca. 50 nm in diameter), even in the presence of serum. Significant enhancement of endosomal escape of a catHDL component is observed after a 1-h treatment of human cancer cells with catHDL/PA. Doxorubicin and curcumin, fluorescent anti-cancer drugs, encapsulated into catHDL/PA are also translocated outside of endosomes, compared with that into catHDL, and their cytotoxicities are enhanced inside the cells. These data suggest that catHDL/PA may have a potential benefit to improve the cellular delivery and endosomal escape of therapeutics under mildly acidic conditions such as in tumor tissues.
Keywords: Anticancer drug delivery; Endosomal escape; Internalization; Membranolytic polymer; Mildly acidic pH.
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