The Power of Shielding: Low Toxicity and High Transfection Performance of Cationic Graft Copolymers Containing Poly(2-oxazoline) Side Chains

TrĂĽtzscher, Anne-Kristin; Bus, Tanja; Sahn, Martin; Traeger, Anja; Weber, Christine; Schubert, Ulrich S.
We show the potential of oligo(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline) (Oxn)-shielded graft copolymers of (2-aminoethyl)-methacrylate and N-methyl-(2-aminoethyl)-methacrylate for pDNA delivery in HEK cells. For the effect of grafting density and side chain length concerning improved transfection properties through the concept of shielding to be investigated, copolymers were synthesized via the macromonomer method using a combination of cationic ring opening polymerization and reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer polymerization to vary the degree of grafting (DG = 10 and 30%) as well as the side chain degree of polymerization (DP = 5 and 20). Investigations of the polyplex formation, in vitro flow cytometry, and confocal laser scanning microscopy measurements on the copolymer library revealed classical shielding properties of the Ox side chains, including highly reduced cytotoxicity and a partial decrease in transfection efficiency, as also reported for polyethylene glycol shielding. In terms of the transfection efficiency, the best performing copolymers (A-g-Ox5(10) and M-g-Ox5(10)) revealed equal or better performances compared to those of the corresponding homopolymers. In particular, the graft copolymers with low DG and side chain DP transfected well with over 10-fold higher IC50 values. In contrast, a DG of 30% resulted in a loss of transfection efficiency due to missing ability for endosomal release, and a side chain DP of 20 hampered the cellular uptake.
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2759 - 2771