Nanoscopic cationic methacrylate star homopolymers: Synthesis by group transfer polymerization, characterization and evaluation as transfection reagents

Theoni K. Georgiou, Maria Vamvakaki, Costas S. Patrickios, Edna N. Yamasaki, Leonidas A. Phylactou

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Seven star polymers with degrees of polymerization (DPs) of the arms from 10 to 100 and dimensions in the nanometer range were prepared using sequential group transfer polymerization of 2-(dimethylamino)-ethyl methacrylate (DMAEMA, hydrophilic positively ionizable monomer) and ethylene glycol dimethacrylate (hydrophobic neutral cross-linker). The polymers were characterized in tetrahydrofuran by gel permeation chromatography and static light scattering to determine the molecular weights and the weight-average number of arms for each sample. The number of arms of the star polymers varied from 20 to 72. Aqueous solutions of the star polymers were studied by turbidimetry, hydrogen ion titration, and dynamic light scattering to determine their cloud points, pKs, and hydrodynamic diameters. The cloud points of the larger star polymers, with arm DP 30-100, were found to be 29-34 °C, almost independent of the DP of the arms. Similarly, the pKs of all star polymers were calculated to range between 6.7 and 7.0, again independent of the arm DP. In contrast, the hydrodynamic diameters of the star polymers strongly depended on the DP of the arms. In particular, by increasing the DP of the arms from 20 to 100, the hydrodynamic diameters in water increased from 7 to 31 nm. All star polymers were evaluated for their ability to transfect human cervical HeLa cancer cells with the modified plasmid pRLSV40 with the enhanced green fluorescent protein as the reporter gene. Our results showed that as the DP of the arms of the DMAEMA star homopolymers increased from 10 to 100, the overall transfection efficiency decreased, with the star polymer with DP of the arms of 10 emerging as the best transfection reagent. Systematic variation of the amounts of star polymer and plasmid DNA used in the transfections led to an optimization of the performance of this star polymer, yielding overall transfection efficiencies of 15%, comparable to the optimum overall transfection efficiency of the commercially available transfection reagent SuperFect of 13%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2221-2229
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004

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