Therapeutic proteins are utilized in a variety of clinical applications, but side effects and rapid in vivo clearance still present hurdles. An approach that addresses both drawbacks is protein encapsulation within in a polymeric nanoparticle, which is effective but introduces the additional challenge of destabilizing the nanoparticle shell in clinically relevant locations. This study examined the effects of crosslinking self-assembled poly(l-lysine)-grafted-poly(ethylene glycol) nanoparticles with redox-responsive 3,3'-dithiobis(sulfosuccinimidyl propionate) (DTSSP) to achieve nanoparticle destabilization in a reductive environment. The polymer-protein nanoparticles (DTSSP NPs) were formed through electrostatic self-assembly and crosslinked with DTSSP, which contains a glutathione-reducible disulfide. As glutathione is upregulated in various cancers, DTSSP NPs could display destabilization within cancer cells. A library of DTSSP NPs was formed with varying copolymer to protein (C:P) and crosslinker to protein (X:P) mass ratios and characterized by size and encapsulation efficiency. DTSSP NPs with a 7:1 C:P ratio and 2:1 X:P ratio were further characterized by stability in the presence proteases and reducing agents. DTSSP NPs fully encapsulated the model protein and displayed 81% protein release when incubated with 5 mM dithiothreitol for 12 hr. This study contributes to understanding stimulus-responsive crosslinking of polymeric nanoparticles and could be foundational to clinical administration of therapeutic proteins.
Keywords: DTSSP crosslinking; nanoparticle drug delivery; redox-responsive; stimulus-responsive; therapeutic protein delivery.
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