Development of Fully Degradable Phosphonium-Functionalized Amphiphilic Diblock Copolymers for Nucleic Acids Delivery

Yannick P. Borguet, Sarosh Khan, Amandine Noel, Sean P. Gunsten, Steven L. Brody, Mahmoud Elsabahy, Karen L. Wooley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


To expand the range of functional polymer materials to include fully hydrolytically degradable systems that bear bioinspired phosphorus-containing linkages both along the backbone and as cationic side chain moieties for packaging and delivery of nucleic acids, phosphonium-functionalized polyphosphoester-block-poly(l-lactide) copolymers of various compositions were synthesized, fully characterized, and their self-assembly into nanoparticles were studied. First, an alkyne-functionalized polyphosphoester-block-poly(l-lactide) copolymer was synthesized via a one pot sequential ring opening polymerization of an alkyne-functionalized phospholane monomer, followed by the addition of l-lactide to grow the second block. Second, the alkynyl side groups of the polyphosphoester block were functionalized via photoinitiated thiol-yne radical addition of a phosphonium-functionalized free thiol. The polymers of varying phosphonium substitution degrees were self-assembled in aqueous buffers to afford formation of well-defined core-shell assemblies with an average size ranging between 30 and 50 nm, as determined by dynamic light scattering. Intracellular delivery of the nanoparticles and their effects on cell viability and capability at enhancing transfection efficiency of nucleic acids (e.g., siRNA) were investigated. Cell viability assays demonstrated limited toxicity of the assembly to RAW 264.7 mouse macrophages, except at high polymer concentrations, where the polymer of high degree of phosphonium functionalization induced relatively higher cytotoxicity. Transfection efficiency was strongly affected by the phosphonium-to-phosphate (P + /P - ) ratios of the polymers and siRNA, respectively. The AllStars Hs Cell Death siRNA complexed to the various copolymers at a P + /P - ratio of 10:1 induced comparable cell death to Lipofectamine. These fully degradable nanoparticles might provide biocompatible nanocarriers for therapeutic nucleic acid delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1212-1222
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 9 2018


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