Lanthanide-containing polycations for monitoring polyplex dynamics via lanthanide resonance energy transfer

Sneha S. Kelkar, Lian Xue, S. Richard Turner, Theresa M. Reineke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Theranostic nanomaterials have emerged in the past decade that combine therapeutic delivery and diagnostic imaging into one package. Such materials offer the opportunity to aid diagnosis, track therapeutic biodistribution, and monitor drug release. We have developed a series of nucleic acid delivery polymers containing oligoethylene amines that are able to be protonated at physiological pH (for binding/compacting pDNA) and a lanthanide-chelating domain, which imparts diagnostic functionality. Diamine monomers (containing between 3 and 6 Boc-protected ethyleneamines) were prepared via a multistep procedure involving the selective protection and deprotection of primary and secondary amines. The polymer structures were then synthesized by step-growth polymerization of the oligoethylene diamines with a bisanhydride of diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA-BA), yielding degrees of polymerization between 18 and 24. Chelation of the polymers with gadolinium and terbium was performed to offer MRI contrast agent and luminescence properties, respectively. All of the polymer chelates were found to house approximately one water coordination site, as calculated by the Horrocks equation and possess longitudinal relaxivities (r1, on a per Gd basis) at least twice that of Magnevist, a clinical contrast agent. All the structures formed polyplexes with pDNA with highly positive zeta potentials and hydrodynamic diameters around 50-80 nm. Lanthanide resonance energy transfer (LRET) was used to monitor polyplex association and dissociation. Polyplexes were formed using the donor-acceptor pair comprising of terbium-chelated polymer with five ethyleneamines within the repeat unit (6c-Tb) and tetramethyl rhodamine (TMR)-labeled pDNA. Association/dissociation in the presence of heparin and NaCl was monitored. The effect of amine number along the polymer backbone on transfection efficiency and cytotoxicity was also investigated. None of the polymers revealed cytotoxic effects with cultured cells; however, the polymer with six ethyleneamines clearly offered the highest transfection efficiency. This preliminary study offers insight into the development of materials with the ability to monitor polyplex unpackaging over time within the cellular environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1612-1624
Number of pages13
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 12 2014


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