Polymer Science

Biocompatibility and Physiological Thiolytic Degradability of Radically-made Thioester-functional Copolymers

Authors

Abstract

Being non-degradable, vinyl polymers have limited biomedical applicability. Unfortunately, backbone esters incorporated through conventional radical ring-opening methods do not undergo appreciable abiotic hydrolysis under physiologically relevant conditions. Here, PEG acrylate and di(ethylene glycol) acrylamide-based copolymers containing backbone thioesters were prepared through the radical ring-opening copolymerization of the thionolactone dibenzo[c,e]oxepin-5(7H)-thione. The thioesters degraded fully in the presence of 10 mM cysteine at pH 7.4, with the mechanism presumed to involve an irreversible S–N switch. Degradations with N-acetylcysteine and glutathione were reversible through the thiol–thioester exchange polycondensation of R–SC(=O)–polymer–SH fragments with full degradation relying on an increased thiolate:thioester ratio. Treatment with 10 mM glutathione at pH 7.2 (mimicking intracellular conditions) triggered an insoluble–soluble switch of a temperature-responsive copolymer at 37 °C and the release of encapsulated Nile Red (as a drug model) from core-degradable diblock copolymer micelles. Copolymers and their cysteinolytic degradation products were found to be non-cytotoxic, making thioester backbone-functional polymers promising for drug delivery applications.

Content

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Supplementary material

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Supporting Information: Biocompatibility and Physiological Thiolytic Degradability of Radically-made Thioester-functional Copolymers
Experimental section, additional GPC and turbidity data, additional photograph to show drug model release.