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Biodegradable and pH-Responsive Nanoparticles Designed for Site-Specific Delivery in Agriculture

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journal contribution
posted on 13.04.2015 by Megan R. Hill, Elliot J. MacKrell, Carl P. Forsthoefel, Shaun P. Jensen, Mingsheng Chen, Gloria A. Moore, Zhenli L. He, Brent S. Sumerlin
We report the synthesis and characterization of pH-responsive polysuccinimide-based nanoparticles. Polysuccinimide (PSI), a precursor to biodegradable poly­(aspartic acid), was synthesized from the condensation of l-aspartic acid and subsequently functionalized with primary amines to form random amphiphilic copolymers. The copolymers formed stable nanoparticles in aqueous medium via nanoprecipitation and were subsequently loaded with a model hydrophobic molecule to demonstrate their potential as controlled-release delivery vehicles. It was found that above pH 7, the hydrophobic succinimidyl units of the PSI nanoparticles hydrolyzed to release encapsulated materials. The release rate significantly increased at elevated pH and decreased with an increasing degree of functionalization. Finally, plant toxicity studies showed that the polymer materials exhibit little to no toxic effects at biologically relevant concentrations.