Cytosolic delivery of macromolecules. 3. Synthesis and characterization of acid-sensitive bis-detergents.
A serious limitation that precludes utilization of single-tailed, pH-sensitive detergents for the cytosolic delivery of macromolecules is their low limit of incorporation in stable liposomal formulations. To address this issue, we have prepared two Gemini surfactants or 'bis-detergents' by cross-linking the headgroups of single-tailed, tertiary amine detergents through oxyethylene (BD1) or acid-labile acetal (BD2) moieties. The membrane-bound pK(a) of the twin tertiary amine headgroups was determined to be 6.37 +/- 0.36 using a fluorescence-based assay. As evidenced by thin-layer chromatography, BD2was hydrolyzed under acidic conditions (pH 5.0) with an approximate half-life of 3 h at 37 degrees C, while BD1 remained stable. Low pH-induced collapse of liposomes containing acid-labile BD2 into micelles was more facile than that of BD1. With BD1, the process appeared to be reversible in that aggregation of micelles was observed at basic pH. The irreversible lamellar-to-micellar transition observed with BD2-containing liposomes can possibly be attributed to acid-catalyzed hydrolysis of the acetal cross-linker, which generates two detergent monomers within the bilayer. Liposomes composed of 75 mol % bis-detergent and 25 mol % phosphatidylcholine were readily prepared and could entrap macromolecules such as polyanionic dextran of MW 40 kDa with moderate efficiency. The ability of BD2-containing liposomes to promote efficient cytosolic delivery of antisense oligonucleotides was confirmed by (a) their diffuse intracellular distribution seen in fluorescence micrographs, and (b) the up-regulation of luciferase in an antisense functional assay. The low pH-responsive, bis-detergent constructs described herein are suitable for triggered release strategies targeted to acidic intracellular or interstitial environments.
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