Protein Release by Controlled Desorption from Transiently Cationic Nanoparticles

ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2023 Jan 26. doi: 10.1021/acsami.2c19877. Online ahead of print.


Therapeutic release from hydrogels is traditionally controlled by encapsulation within nanoparticles; however, this strategy is limited for the release of proteins due to poor efficiency and denaturation. To overcome this problem, we designed an encapsulation-free release platform where negatively charged proteins are adsorbed to the exterior of transiently cationic nanoparticles, thus allowing the nanoparticles to be formulated separately from the proteins. Release is then governed by the change in nanoparticle surface charge from positive to neutral. To achieve this, we synthesized eight zwitterionic poly(lactide-block-carboxybetaine) copolymer derivatives and formulated them into nanoparticles with differing surface chemistry. The nanoparticles were colloidally stable and lost positive charge at rates dependent on the hydrolytic stability of their surface ester groups. The nanoparticles (NPs) were dispersed in a physically cross-linked hyaluronan-based hydrogel with one of three negatively charged proteins (transferrin, panitumumab, or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor) to assess their ability to control release. For all three proteins, dispersing NPs within the gels resulted in significant attenuation of release, with the extent modulated by the hydrolytic stability of the surface groups. Release was rapid from fast-hydrolyzing ester groups, reduced with slow-hydrolyzing bulky ester groups, and very slow with nonhydrolyzing amide groups. When positively charged lysozyme was loaded into the nanocomposite gel, there was no significant attenuation of release compared to gel alone. These data demonstrate that electrostatic interactions between the protein and NP are the primary driver of protein release from the hydrogel. All released proteins retained bioactivity as determined with in vitro cell assays. This release strategy shows tremendous versatility and provides a promising new platform for controlled release of anionic protein therapeutics.

Keywords: biomaterials; controlled release; electrostatic; hydrogels; hydrolysis; nanoparticles; proteins.

Publication types

  • Review