Curcumin is known to have immense therapeutic potential but is hindered by poor solubility and rapid degradation in solution. To overcome these shortcomings, curcumin has been conjugated to chitosan through a pendant glutaric anhydride linker using amide bond coupling chemistry. The hybrid polymer has been characterized by UV-visible, fluorescence, and infrared spectroscopies as well as zeta potential measurements and SEM imaging. The conjugation reactivity was confirmed through gel permeation chromatography and quantification of unconjugated curcumin. An analogous reaction of curcumin with glucosamine, a small molecule analogue for chitosan, was performed and the purified product characterized by mass spectrometry, UV-visible, fluorescence, and infrared spectroscopies. Conjugation of curcumin to chitosan has greatly improved curcumin aqueous solubility and stability, with no significant curcumin degradation detected after one month in solution. The absorbance and fluorescence properties of curcumin are minimally perturbed (λmax shifts of 2 and 5 nm, respectively) by the conjugation reaction. This conjugation strategy required use of one out of two curcumin phenols (one of the main antioxidant functional groups) for covalent linkage to chitosan, thus temporarily attenuating its antioxidant capacity. Hydrolysis-based release of curcumin from the polymer, however, is accompanied by full restoration of curcumin's antioxidant potential. Antioxidant assays show that curcumin radical scavenging potential is reduced by 40% after conjugation, but that full antioxidant potential is restored upon hydrolytic release from chitosan. Release studies show that curcumin is released over 19 days from the polymer and maintains a concentration of 0.23 ± 0.12 μM curcumin/mg polymer/mL solution based on 1% curcumin loading on the polymer. Release studies in the presence of carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme with known phenolic esterase activity, show no significant difference from nonenzymatic release studies, implying that simple ester hydrolysis is the dominant release mechanism. Conjugation of curcumin to chitosan through a phenol ester modification provides improved stability and solubility to curcumin, with ester hydrolysis restoring the full antioxidant potential of curcumin.
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The authors wish to acknowledge Joe Williams and Dhruvinkumar Patel for their assistance with SEM imaging and Patrick Hoblitzell for his contributions to discussions about the project. Support for this work was in part provided by NASA Grants NNX10AJ36G and NNX13AD33A and the University of Louisville Department of Bioengineering.
© 2016 American Chemical Society.