Poly-γ-glutamic acid (PGA), a major component of the bacterial capsule, is known to confer hydrophilicity to bacterial surfaces and protect bacteria from interactions with blood cells. We tested whether applying a bacteriomimetic surface coating of PGA modulates interactions of nanomaterials with blood cells or affects their safety and photothermal antitumor efficacy. Amphiphilic PGA (APGA), prepared by grafting phenylalanine residues to PGA, was used to anchor PGA to reduced graphene oxide (rGO) nanosheets, a model of hydrophobic nanomaterials. Surface coating of rGO with bacterial capsule-like APGA yielded APGA-tethered rGO nanosheets (ArGO). ArGO nanosheets remained stable in serum over 4 weeks, whereas rGO in plain form precipitated in serum within 5 minutes. Moreover, ArGO did not interact with blood cells, whereas rGO in plain form or as a physical mixture with PGA formed aggregates with blood cells. Mice administered ArGO at a dose of 50 mg/kg showed 100% survival and no hepatic or renal toxicity. No mice survived exposure at the same dose of rGO or a PGA/rGO mixture. Following intravenous administration, ArGO showed a greater distribution to tumors and prolonged tumor retention compared with other nanosheet formulations. Irradiation with near-infrared light completely ablated tumors in mice treated with ArGO. Our results indicate that a bacteriomimetic surface modification of nanomaterials with bacterial capsule-like APGA improves the stability in blood, biocompatibility, tumor distribution, and photothermal antitumor efficacy of rGO. Although APGA was used here to coat the surfaces of rGO, it could be applicable to coat surfaces of other hydrophobic nanomaterials.
Keywords: Bacteriomimetic; amphiphilic poly-γ-glutamic acid; bacterial capsule; hemocompatibility; safety; surface coating.