A Vinyl Ether-Functional Polycarbonate as a Template for Multiple Postpolymerization Modifications.
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A highly-reactive vinyl ether-functionalized aliphatic polycarbonate and its block copolymer were developed as templates for multiple post-polymerization conjugation chemistries. The vinyl ether-functional six-membered cyclic carbonate monomer was synthesized by a well-established two-step procedure starting from 2,2-bis(hydroxymethyl)propionic acid. An organobase-catalyzed ring-opening polymerization of the synthesized monomer afforded polycarbonates with pendant vinyl ether functionalities (PMVEC). The vinyl ether moieties on the resulting polymers were readily conjugated with hydroxyl- or thiol-containing compounds via three different post-polymerization modification chemistries - acetalization, thio-acetalization, and thiol-ene reaction. Acetal-functionalized polycarbonates were studied in depth to exploit their acid-labile acetal functionalities. Acetalization of the amphiphilic diblock copolymer of poly(ethylene glycol) methyl ether (mPEG) and PMVEC, mPEG113-b-PMVEC13, with the model hydroxyl compound 4- methylbenzyl alcohol resulted in a maximum of 42% acetal and 58% hydroxyl side chain groups. Nonetheless, the amphiphilicity of the block polymer allowed for its self-assembly in water to afford nanostructures, as characterized via dynamic light scattering and transmission electron microscopy. The kinetics of acetal cleavage within the block polymer micelles were examined in acidic buffered solutions (pH 4 and 5). In addition, mPEG-b-PMVEC and its hydrolyzed polymer mPEG-b-PMHEC (i.e., after full cleavage of acetals) exhibited minimal cytotoxicity to RAW 264.7 mouse macrophages, indicating that this polymer system represents a biologically non-hazardous material with pH-responsive activity.