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Smart Nanoparticles Undergo Phase Transition for Enhanced Cellular Uptake and Subsequent Intracellular Drug Release in a Tumor Microenvironment

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journal contribution
posted on 20.12.2017, 00:00 by Guihua Ye, Yajun Jiang, Xiaoying Yang, Hongxiang Hu, Beibei Wang, Lu Sun, Victor C. Yang, Duxin Sun, Wei Gao
Inefficient cellular uptake and intracellular drug release at the tumor site are two major obstacles limiting the antitumor efficacy of nanoparticle delivery systems. To overcome both problems, we designed a smart nanoparticle that undergoes phase transition in a tumor microenvironment (TME). The smart nanoparticle is generated using a lipid–polypetide hybrid nanoparticle, which comprises a PEGylated lipid monolayer shell and a pH-sensitive hydrophobic poly-l-histidine core and is loaded with the antitumor drug doxorubicin (DOX). The smart nanoparticle undergoes a two-step phase transition at two different pH values in the TME: (i) At the TME (pHe: 7.0–6.5), the smart nanoparticle swells, and its surface potential turns from negative to neutral, facilitating the cellular uptake; (ii) After internalization, at the acid endolysosome (pHendo: 6.5–4.5), the smart nanoparticle dissociates and induces endolysosome escape to release DOX into the cytoplasm. In addition, a tumor-penetrating peptide iNRG was modified on the surface of the smart nanoparticle as a tumor target moiety. The in vitro studies demonstrated that the iNGR-modified smart nanoparticles promoted cellular uptake in the acidic environment (pH 6.8). The in vivo studies showed that the iNGR-modified smart nanoparticles exerted more potent antitumor efficacy against late-stage aggressive breast carcinoma than free DOX. These data suggest that the smart nanoparticles may serve as a promising delivery system for sequential uptake and intracellular drug release of antitumor agents. The easy preparation of these smart nanoparticles may also have advantages in the future manufacture for clinical trials and clinical use.