Preparation of poly(-L-malic acid)-based charge-conversional nanoconjugates for tumor-specific uptake and cellular delivery.
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In this study, a multifunctional poly(-L-malic acid)-based nanoconjugate with a pH-dependent charge conversional characteristic was developed for tumor-specific drug delivery. The short branched polyethylenimine-modified poly(-L-malic acid) (PEPM) was first synthesized. Then, the fragment HAb18 F(ab')2 and 2,3-dimethylmaleic anhydride were covalently attached to the PEPM to form the nanoconjugate, HDPEPM. In this nanoconjugate, the 2,3-dimethylmaleic anhydride, the shielding group, could shield the positive charge of the conjugate at pH 7.4, while it was selectively hydrolyzed in the tumor extracellular space (pH 6.8) to expose the previously-shielded positive charge. To study the anticancer activity, the anticancer drug, doxorubicin, was covalently attached to the nanoconjugate. The doxorubicin-loaded HDPEPM nanoconjugate was able to efficiently undergo a quick charge conversion from -11.62 mV to 9.04 mV in response to the tumor extracellular pH. The electrostatic interaction between the positively charged HDPEPM nanoconjugates and the negatively charged cell membrane significantly enhanced their cellular uptake, resulting in the enhanced anticancer activity. Also, the tumor targetability of the nanoconjugates could be further improved via the fragment HAb18 F(ab')2 ligand-receptor-mediated tumor cell-specific endocytosis.