Judging Enzyme-Responsive Micelles by Their Covers: Direct Comparison of Dendritic Amphiphiles with Different Hydrophilic Blocks

Gadi Slor, Alis R. Olea, Sílvia Pujals, Ali Tigrine, Victor R. De La Rosa, Richard Hoogenboom, Lorenzo Albertazzi, Roey J. Amir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Enzymatically degradable polymeric micelles have great potential as drug delivery systems, allowing the selective release of their active cargo at the site of disease. Furthermore, enzymatic degradation of the polymeric nanocarriers facilitates clearance of the delivery system after it has completed its task. While extensive research is dedicated toward the design and study of the enzymatically degradable hydrophobic block, there is limited understanding on how the hydrophilic shell of the micelle can affect the properties of such enzymatically degradable micelles. In this work, we report a systematic head-to-head comparison of well-defined polymeric micelles with different polymeric shells and two types of enzymatically degradable hydrophobic cores. To carry out this direct comparison, we developed a highly modular approach for preparing clickable, spectrally active enzyme-responsive dendrons with adjustable degree of hydrophobicity. The dendrons were linked with three different widely used hydrophilic polymers-poly(ethylene glycol), poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline), and poly(acrylic acid) using the CuAAC click reaction. The high modularity and molecular precision of the synthetic methodology enabled us to easily prepare well-defined amphiphiles that differ either in their hydrophilic block composition or in their hydrophobic dendron. The micelles of the different amphiphiles were thoroughly characterized and their sizes, critical micelle concentrations, drug loading, stability, and cell internalization were compared. We found that the micelle diameter was almost solely dependent on the hydrophobicity of the dendritic hydrophobic block, whereas the enzymatic degradation rate was strongly dependent on the composition of both blocks. Drug encapsulation capacity was very sensitive to the type of the hydrophilic block, indicating that, in addition to the hydrophobic core, the micellar shell also has a significant role in drug encapsulation. Incubation of the spectrally active micelles in the presence of cells showed that the hydrophilic shell significantly affects the micellar stability, localization, cell internalization kinetics, and the cargo release mechanism. Overall, the high molecular precision and the ability of these amphiphiles to report their disassembly, even in complex biological media, allowed us to directly compare the different types of micelles, providing striking insights into how the composition of the micelle shells and cores can affect their properties and potential to serve as nanocarriers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1197-1210
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - 8 Mar 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Judging Enzyme-Responsive Micelles by Their Covers: Direct Comparison of Dendritic Amphiphiles with Different Hydrophilic Blocks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this