Brush Conformation of Polyethylene Glycol Determines the Stealth Effect of Nanocarriers in the Low Protein Adsorption Regime.


Li M(1), Jiang S(1), Simon J(1)(2), Paßlick D(1)(2), Frey ML(1), Wagner M(1), Mailänder V(1)(2), Crespy D(3), Landfester K(1).
Author information:
(1)Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Ackermannweg 10, 55128 Mainz, Germany.
(2)Department of Dermatology, Johannes-Gutenberg University, 55131 Mainz, Germany.
(3)Department of Materials Science and Engineering, School of Molecular Science and Engineering, Vidyasirimedhi Institute of Science and Technology
(VISTEC), Rayong 21210, Thailand.


For nanocarriers with low protein affinity, we show that the interaction of nanocarriers with cells is mainly affected by the density, the molecular weight, and the conformation of polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains bound to the nanocarrier surface. We achieve a reduction of nonspecific uptake of ovalbumin nanocarriers by dendritic cells using densely packed PEG chains with a "brush" conformation instead of the collapsed "mushroom" conformation. We also control to a minor extent the dysopsonin adsorption by tailoring the conformation of attached PEG on the nanocarriers. The brush conformation of PEG leads to a stealth behavior of the nanocarriers with inhibited uptake by phagocytic cells, which is a prerequisite for successful in vivo translation of nanomedicine to achieve long blood circulation and targeted delivery. We can clearly correlate the brush conformation of PEG with inhibited phagocytic uptake of the nanocarriers. This study shows that, in addition to the surface's chemistry, the conformation of polymers controls cellular interactions of the nanocarriers.