pH-Activated Nanoparticles for Controlled Topical Delivery of Farnesol To Disrupt Oral Biofilm Virulence

Development of effective therapies to control oral biofilms is challenging, as topically introduced agents must avoid rapid clearance from biofilm–tooth interfaces while targeting biofilm microenvironments. Additionally, exopolysaccharides-matrix and acidification of biofilm microenvironments are associated with cariogenic (caries-producing) biofilm virulence. Thus, nanoparticle carriers capable of binding to hydroxyapatite (HA), saliva-coated HA (sHA), and exopolysaccharides with enhanced drug release at acidic pH were developed. Nanoparticles are formed from diblock copolymers composed of 2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate (DMAEMA), butyl methacrylate (BMA), and 2-propylacrylic acid (PAA) (p(DMAEMA)-b-p(DMAEMA-co-BMA-co-PAA)) that self-assemble into ∼21 nm cationic nanoparticles. Nanoparticles exhibit outstanding adsorption affinities (∼244 L-mmol–1) to negatively charged HA, sHA, and exopolysaccharide-coated sHA due to strong electrostatic interactions via multivalent tertiary amines of p(DMAEMA). Owing to hydrophobic cores, nanoparticles load farnesol, a hydrophobic antibacterial drug, at ∼22 wt %. Farnesol release is pH-dependent with t1/2 = 7 and 15 h for release at pH 4.5 and 7.2, as nanoparticles undergo core destabilization at acidic pH, characteristic of cariogenic biofilm microenvironments. Importantly, topical applications of farnesol-loaded nanoparticles disrupted Streptococcus mutans biofilms 4-fold more effectively than free farnesol. Mechanical stability of biofilms treated with drug-loaded nanoparticles was compromised, resulting in >2-fold enhancement in biofilm removal under shear stress compared to free farnesol and controls. Farnesol-loaded nanoparticles effectively attenuated biofilm virulence in vivo using a clinically relevant topical treatment regimen (2×/day) in a rodent dental caries disease model. Strikingly, treatment with farnesol-loaded nanoparticles reduced both the number and severity of carious lesions, while free farnesol had no effect. Nanoparticle carriers have great potential to enhance the efficacy of antibiofilm agents through multitargeted binding and pH-responsive drug release due to microenvironmental triggers.