Trehalose-Based Block Copolycations Promote Polyplex Stabilization for Lyophilization and in Vivo pDNA Delivery

Zachary P. Tolstyka, Haley Phillips, Mallory Cortez, Yaoying Wu, Nilesh Ingle, Jason B. Bell, Perry B. Hackett, Theresa M. Reineke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The development and thorough characterization of nonviral delivery agents for nucleic acid and genome editing therapies are of high interest to the field of nanomedicine. Indeed, this vehicle class offers the ability to tune chemical architecture/biological activity and readily package nucleic acids of various sizes and morphologies for a variety of applications. Herein, we present the synthesis and characterization of a class of trehalose-based block copolycations designed to stabilize polyplex formulations for lyophilization and in vivo administration. A 6-methacrylamido-6-deoxy trehalose (MAT) monomer was synthesized from trehalose and polymerized via reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization to yield pMAT43. The pMAT43 macro-chain transfer agent was then chain-extended with aminoethylmethacrylamide (AEMA) to yield three different pMAT-b-AEMA cationic-block copolymers, pMAT-b-AEMA-1 (21 AEMA repeats), -2 (44 AEMA repeats), and -3 (57 AEMA repeats). These polymers along with a series of controls were used to form polyplexes with plasmids encoding firefly luciferase behind a strong ubiquitous promoter. The trehalose-coated polyplexes were characterized in detail and found to be resistant to colloidal aggregation in culture media containing salt and serum. The trehalose-polyplexes also retained colloidal stability and promoted high gene expression following lyophilization and reconstitution. Cytotoxicity, cellular uptake, and transfection ability were assessed in vitro using both human glioblastoma (U87) and human liver carcinoma (HepG2) cell lines wherein pMAT-b-AEMA-2 was found to have the optimal combination of high gene expression and low toxicity. pMAT-b-AEMA-2 polyplexes were evaluated in mice via slow tail vein infusion. The vehicle displayed minimal toxicity and discouraged nonspecific internalization in the liver, kidney, spleen, and lungs as determined by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and fluorescence imaging experiments. Hydrodynamic infusion of the polyplexes, however, led to very specific localization of the polyplexes to the mouse liver and promoted excellent gene expression in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-55
Number of pages13
JournalACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Chemical Society.


  • RAFT polymerization
  • cryo-stabilization
  • glycopolymer
  • hydrodynamic injection
  • nanomedicine
  • nanoparticle
  • nonviral gene delivery
  • stealth polymer
  • transfection


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