Enzymatically and reductively degradable α-amino acid-based poly(ester amide)s: Synthesis, cell compatibility, and intracellular anticancer drug delivery

Huanli Sun, Ru Cheng, Chao Deng, Fenghua Meng*, Aylvin A. Dias, Marc Hendriks, Jan Feijen, Zhiyuan Zhong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


A novel and versatile family of enzymatically and reductively degradable α-amino acid-based poly(ester amide)s (SS-PEAs) were developed from solution polycondensation of disulfide-containing di-p-toluenesulfonic acid salts of bis-l-phenylalanine diesters (SS-Phe-2TsOH) with di-p-nitrophenyl adipate (NA) in N,N-dimethylformamide (DMF). SS-PEAs with Mn ranging from 16.6 to 23.6 kg/mol were obtained, depending on NA/SS-Phe-2TsOH molar ratios. The chemical structures of SS-PEAs were confirmed by 1H NMR and FTIR spectra. Thermal analyses showed that the obtained SS-PEAs were amorphous with a glass transition temperature (Tg) in the range of 35.2–39.5 °C. The in vitro degradation studies of SS-PEA films revealed that SS-PEAs underwent surface erosion in the presence of 0.1 mg/mL α-chymotrypsin and bulk degradation under a reductive environment containing 10 mM dithiothreitol (DTT). The preliminary cell culture studies displayed that SS-PEA films could well support adhesion and proliferation of L929 fibroblast cells, indicating that SS-PEAs have excellent cell compatibility. The nanoparticles prepared from SS-PEA with PVA as a surfactant had an average size of 167 nm in phosphate buffer (PB, 10 mM, pH 7.4). SS-PEA nanoparticles while stable under physiological environment undergo rapid disintegration under an enzymatic or reductive condition. The in vitro drug release studies showed that DOX release was accelerated in the presence of 0.1 mg/mL α-chymotrypsin or 10 mM DTT. Confocal microscopy observation displayed that SS-PEA nanoparticles effectively transported DOX into both drug-sensitive and -resistant MCF-7 cells. MTT assays revealed that DOX-loaded SS-PEA nanoparticles had a high antitumor activity approaching that of free DOX in drug-sensitive MCF-7 cells, while more than 10 times higher than free DOX in drug-resistant MCF-7/ADR cells. These enzymatically and reductively degradable α-amino acid-based poly(ester amide)s have provided an appealing platform for biomedical technology in particular controlled drug delivery applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-605
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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