Cytoplasmic Delivery and Nuclear Targeting of Synthetic Macromolecules.
Keith D. Jensen, Aparna Nori, Monica Tijerina, Pavla Kopeckova, Jindrich Kopecek.
J Controlled Release. 87 (1-3), 89-105 (2003). [Link to paper]


Delivery of macromolecular drugs (e.g. antisense oligonucleotides, polymer-drug conjugates, etc.) designed to work in specific sites inside cells is complicated as macromolecules typically have access to fewer biological compartments than small molecules. To better understand the fate of macromolecules in cells and begin to alter that fate, we investigated the internalization and subcellular fate of N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide (HPMA) copolymers and HPMA copolymer-drug conjugates in Hep G2 and A2780 cells. The subcellular fate of fluorescently labeled polymers was monitored by confocal microscopy and subcellular fractionation. Initially the HPMA copolymers and HPMA copolymer-drug conjugates were internalized by endocytosis and remained in endosomes / lysosomes. At longer incubation times (>8 hours), small amounts of the HPMA copolymers were observed to enter the cytoplasm and accumulate in the nucleus of the cells. Nuclear accumulation was confirmed after cytoplasmic microinjection. Oligonucleotides conjugated via lysosomally degradable spacers entered into the cytoplasm and nucleus of the cells faster than the polymers. The effect of the subcellular location was correlated to the toxicity of the photosensitizer, mesochlorin e6 (Mce6), HPMA copolymer conjugates. The plasma membrane and late endosomes were more sensitive to damage by Mce6. Targeting the polymer conjugates to the nucleus with the nuclear localization sequence (NLS) as well as conjugating the Mce6 via a degradable spacer increased cell adhesion and uptake, promoted their entry into the cytoplasm and nucleus of the cells, and increased their toxicity. To further promote entry of the polymers into the cytoplasm and nucleus of the cells, the protein transduction domain, Tat peptide, was conjugated to the HPMA copolymers. This resulted in high binding to the cell membrane, but also facilitated rapid (<5 minutes) entry of the macromolecules into the cytoplasm and nucleus of cells. These results will prove valuable in the future design of macromolecular therapeutics.

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