Synthetic Ionizable Colloidal Drug Aggregates Enable Endosomal Disruption

Adv Sci (Weinh). 2023 May;10(13):e2300311. doi: 10.1002/advs.202300311. Epub 2023 Mar 11.


Colloidal drug aggregates enable the design of drug-rich nanoparticles; however, the efficacy of stabilized colloidal drug aggregates is limited by entrapment in the endo-lysosomal pathway. Although ionizable drugs are used to elicit lysosomal escape, this approach is hindered by toxicity associated with phospholipidosis. It is hypothesized that tuning the pKa of the drug would enable endosomal disruption while avoiding phospholipidosis and minimizing toxicity. To test this idea, 12 analogs of the nonionizable colloidal drug fulvestrant are synthesized with ionizable groups to enable pH-dependent endosomal disruption while maintaining bioactivity. Lipid-stabilized fulvestrant analog colloids are endocytosed by cancer cells, and the pKa of these ionizable colloids influenced the mechanism of endosomal and lysosomal disruption. Four fulvestrant analogs-those with pKa values between 5.1 and 5.7-disrupted endo-lysosomes without measurable phospholipidosis. Thus, by manipulating the pKa of colloid-forming drugs, a tunable and generalizable strategy for endosomal disruption is established.

Keywords: colloidal drug aggregates; drug delivery; endosomal disruption; fulvestrant; nanoparticles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Colloids*
  • Endosomes* / metabolism
  • Fulvestrant / metabolism
  • Lysosomes


  • Fulvestrant
  • Colloids