Control over the assembly and disassembly of nanoparticles is pivotal for their use as drug delivery vehicles. Here, we aim to form supramolecular nanoparticles (SNPs) by combining advantages of the reversible assembly properties of SNPs using host–guest interactions and of a stimulus-responsive moiety. The SNPs are composed of a core of positively charged poly(ethylene imine) grafted with β-cyclodextrin (CD) and a positively charged ferrocene (Fc)-terminated poly(amidoamine) dendrimer, with a monovalent stabilizer at the surface. Fc was chosen for its loss of CD-binding properties when oxidizing it to the ferrocenium cation. The ionic strength was shown to play an important role in controlling the aggregate growth. The attractive supramolecular and repulsive electrostatic interactions constitute a balance of forces in this system at low ionic strengths. At higher ionic strengths, the increased charge screening led to a loss of electrostatic repulsion and therefore to faster aggregate growth. A Job plot showed that a 1:1 stoichiometry of host and guest moieties gave the most efficient aggregate growth. Different stabilizers were used to find the optimal stopper to limit the growth. A weaker guest moiety was shown to be less efficient in stabilizing the SNPs. Also steric repulsion is important for achieving SNP stability. SNPs of controlled particle size and good stability (up to seven days) were prepared by fine-tuning the ratio of multivalent and monovalent interactions. Finally, reversibility of the SNPs was confirmed by oxidizing the Fc guest moieties in the core of the SNPs.
Weinhart-Mejia, R., Kronig, G. A., & Huskens, J. (2015). Size-controlled and redox-responsive supramolecular nanoparticles. Beilstein journal of organic chemistry, 11, 2388-2399. https://doi.org/10.3762/bjoc.11.260