Micellar Stability in Biological Media Dictates Internalization in Living Cells

Natalia Feiner-Gracia, Marina Buzhor, Edgar Fuentes, Sílvia Pujals, Roey J. Amir, Lorenzo Albertazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dynamic nature of polymeric assemblies makes their stability in biological media a crucial parameter for their potential use as drug delivery systems in vivo. Therefore, it is essential to study and understand the behavior of self-assembled nanocarriers under conditions that will be encountered in vivo such as extreme dilutions and interactions with blood proteins and cells. Herein, using a combination of fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy, we studied four amphiphilic PEG-dendron hybrids and their self-assembled micelles in order to determine their structure-stability relations. The high molecular precision of the dendritic block enabled us to systematically tune the hydrophobicity and stability of the assembled micelles. Using micelles that change their fluorescent properties upon disassembly, we observed that serum proteins bind to and interact with the polymeric amphiphiles in both their assembled and monomeric states. These interactions strongly affected the stability and enzymatic degradation of the micelles. Finally, using spectrally resolved confocal imaging, we determined the relations between the stability of the polymeric assemblies in biological media and their cell entry. Our results highlight the important interplay between molecular structure, micellar stability, and cell internalization pathways, pinpointing the high sensitivity of stability-activity relations to minor structural changes and the crucial role that these relations play in designing effective polymeric nanostructures for biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16677-16687
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number46
StatePublished - 22 Nov 2017


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