Amphiphilic polysaccharides as building blocks for self-assembled nanosystems: molecular design and application in cancer and inflammatory diseases

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Polysaccharides (PSs) have been extensively studied in healthcare applications; here, we focus our attention on their use as components of nanomaterials in the management of cancer and inflammatory pathologies. Key advantages of PSs are easy availability, general biodegradability and biocompatibility, low or negligible toxicity, often a low immunogenicity and finally an ease of chemical modification. Here, we pay particular attention to the large family of amphiphilic PS derivatives (AMPDs); they are synthesized by modifying hydrophilic PSs with a variety of hydrophobic groups, which allow the constructs to self-assemble into various nanostructures in aqueous solution. This review focuses on AMPD-based self-assembled nanoparticles, from the chemical synthesis of AMPDs, through nanoparticle preparative strategies, to the most recent applications in cancer and inflammation management, including therapeutics, imaging and theranostics. We also offer an overview, which we feel lacks in the current literature, of the relation between the nature of the hydrophilic PSs and that of the hydrophobic components, of linkers, targeting groups and cross-linkers, and of the actual properties and in vivo fate of AMPD-based nanoparticles. Finally, we believe that this comprehensive insight into the possible effects of AMPDs’ structural components on the performance of nanosystems, can provide criteria for a rational and molecular level-based design of AMPDs. (Journal of Controlled Release. Volume 272, 28 February 2018, Pages 114-144.)

Effects of Chemical Conjugation of l-Leucine to Chitosan on Dispersibility and Controlled Release of Drug from a Nanoparticulate Dry Powder Inhaler Formulation

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This study investigated l-leucine-conjugated chitosan as a drug delivery vehicle in terms of dispersibility and controlled release from a nanoparticulate dry powder inhaler (DPI) formulation for pulmonary delivery using diltiazem hydrochloride (DH) as the model drug. DH-loaded nanoparticles of chitosan and conjugate were prepared by water-in-oil emulsification followed by glutaraldehyde cross-linking. Nanoparticles were characterized by dynamic light scattering for particle size, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy for surface composition, and twin stage impinger for drug dispersibility. The controlled release of DH was studied in phosphate-buffered saline (pH 7.3 ± 0.2, 37 °C) using UV spectrophotometry. The fine particle fractions of conjugated chitosan with and without drug were higher than those of nonconjugated chitosan nanoparticles. The conjugate nanoparticles were superior to those of unmodified chitosan in drug loading, entrapment efficiency, and controlled release profile. The higher dispersibility was attributed to the amphiphilic environment of the l-leucine conjugate and hydrophobic cross-links, and the release profile reflects the greater swelling. The conjugated chitosan nanoparticles could be useful, after appropriate testing for biodegradability and toxicity, as an alternative carrier for lung drug delivery with enhanced aerosolization and prolonged drug release from nanoparticulate DPI formulations. (Mol Pharm. 2016 May 2;13(5):1455-66. )

Carnosine-LVFFARK-NH2 Conjugate: A Moderate Chelator but Potent Inhibitor of Cu2+-Mediated Amyloid β-Protein Aggregation

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Aggregation of amyloid-β (Aβ) protein stimulated by Cu2+ has been recognized as a crucial step in the neurodegenerative process of Alzheimer’s disease. Hence, it is of significance to develop bifunctional agents capable of inhibiting Aβ aggregation as well as Cu2+-mediated Aβ toxicity. Herein, a novel bifunctional nonapeptide, carnosine-LVFFARK-NH2 ( Car-LK7), was proposed by integrating native chelator carnosine ( Car) and an Aβ aggregation inhibitor, Ac-LVFFARK-NH2 (LK7). Results revealed the bifunctionality of Car-LK7, including remarkably enhanced inhibition capability on Aβ aggregation as compared to LK7 and a moderate Cu2+ chelating affinity ( KD = 28.2 ± 2.1 μM) in comparison to the binding affinity for Aβ40 ( KD = 1.02 ± 0.13 μM). The moderate Cu2+ affinity was insufficient for Car-LK7 to sequester Cu2+ from Aβ40-Cu2+ species, but it was sufficient to form ternary Aβ40-Cu2+- Car-LK7 complexes. Formation of the ternary complexes directed the aggregation into small, unstructured aggregates with little β-sheet structure. Car-LK7 also showed higher activity on arresting Aβ40-Cu2+-catalyzed reactive oxygen species production than Car. Cell viability assays confirmed the prominent protection activity of Car-LK7 against Cu2+-mediated Aβ40 cytotoxicity; Car-LK7 could almost eliminate Aβ40 cytotoxicity at an equimolar dose (cell viability increased from 59% to 99%). The research has thus provided new insight into the design of potent bifunctional agents against metal-mediated amyloid toxicity by conjugating moderate metal chelators and existing inhibitors. (ACS Chem Neurosci. 2018 Nov 21;9(11):2689-2700.)

‘Dual’ peptidyl-oligonucleotide conjugates: Role of conformational flexibility in catalytic cleavage of RNA

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Traditional therapeutic interventions against abnormal gene expression in disease states at the level of expressed proteins are becoming increasingly difficult due to poor selectivity, off-target effects and associated toxicity. Upstream catalytic targeting of specific RNA sequences offers an alternative platform for drug discovery to achieve more potent and selective treatment through antisense interference with disease-relevant RNAs. We report a novel class of catalytic biomaterials, comprising amphipathic RNA-cleaving peptides placed between two RNA recognition motifs, here demonstrated to target the TΨC loop and 3′- acceptor stem of tRNAPhe. These unique peptidyl-oligonucleotide ‘dual’ conjugates (DCs) were created by phosphoramidate or thiol-maleimide conjugation chemistry of a TΨC-targeting oligonucleotide to the N-terminus of the amphipathic peptide sequence, followed by amide coupling of a 3′-acceptor stem-targeting oligonucleotide to the free C-terminal carboxylic acid functionality of the same peptide. Hybridization of the DCs bearing two spatially-separated recognition motifs with the target tRNAPhe placed the peptide adjacent to a single-stranded RNA region and promoted cleavage within the ‘action radius’ of the catalytic peptide. Up to 100% cleavage of the target tRNAPhe was achieved by the best candidate (i.e. DC6) within 4 h, when conformational flexibility was introduced into the linker regions between the peptide and oligonucleotide components. This study provides the strong position for future development of highly selective RNA-targeting agents that can potentially be used for disease-selective treatment at the level of messenger, micro, and genomic viral RNA. (Biomaterials 112 (2017) 44e61)

Cyclodextrin-siRNA conjugates as versatile gene silencing agents

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Functional siRNAs (luciferase and PLK1) have been conjugated to β-cyclodextrin and the ability of the conjugates to retain gene knockdown activity has been assessed by delivery to cancer cell lines using various formulations. Initially two formulations used complexation with polycations, namely Lipofectamine 2000 and an amphiphilic polycationic cyclodextrin. Gene knockdown results for human glioblastoma cells (U87) and prostate cancer cells (PC3, DU145) showed that conjugation to the cyclodextrin did not reduce gene silencing by the RNA. A third mode of delivery involved formation of targeted nanoparticles in which the conjugate was first complexed with adamantyl-PEG-ligands (targeting ligand RVG peptide or dianisamide) by adamantyl inclusion in the cyclodextrin cavities of the conjugates, followed by charge neutralisation with the cationic polymer chitosan. Enhanced knockdown was achieved by these ligand-targeted formulations. In summary, while this study illustrated the gene silencing efficacy of a simple cyclodextrin-siRNA conjugate it is envisaged that future studies will explore the use of conjugates with a modified cyclodextrin which would be self-delivering. Detailed data such as stability, lysosomal escape etc. will then be reported for each conjugate, since this will be appropriate for conjugates which are intended to exploit, rather than merely demonstrate, the concept. The present paper was intended to demonstrate the viability and generality of this novel concept. (Eur J Pharm Sci. 2018 Mar 1;114:30-37.)

Genetically Encoded Cholesterol-Modified Polypeptides

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Biological systems use post-translational modifications (PTMs) to control the structure, location, and function of proteins after expression. Despite the ubiquity of PTMs in biology, their use to create genetically encoded recombinant biomaterials is limited. We have utilized a natural lipidation PTM (hedgehog-mediated cholesterol modification of proteins) to create a class of hybrid biomaterials called cholesterol-modified polypeptides (CHaMPs) that exhibit programmable self-assembly at the nanoscale. To demonstrate the biomedical utility of CHaMPs, we used this approach to append cholesterol to biologically active peptide exendin-4 that is an approved drug for the treatment of type II diabetes. The exendin-cholesterol conjugate self-assembled into micelles, and these micelles activate the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor with a potency comparable to that of current gold standard treatments. (J Am Chem Soc. 2019 Jan 4. )

Amphiphilic Polymeric Micelles Based on Deoxycholic Acid and Folic Acid Modified Chitosan for the Delivery of Paclitaxel

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The present investigation aimed to develop a tumor-targeting drug delivery system for paclitaxel (PTX). The hydrophobic deoxycholic acid (DA) and active targeting ligand folic acid (FA) were used to modify water-soluble chitosan (CS). As an amphiphilic polymer, the conjugate FA-CS-DA was synthesized and characterized by Proton nuclear magnetic resonance (¹H-NMR) and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) analysis. The degree of substitutions of DA and FA were calculated as 15.8% and 8.0%, respectively. In aqueous medium, the conjugate could self-assemble into micelles with the critical micelle concentration of 6.6 × 10-3 mg/mL. Under a transmission electron microscope (TEM), the PTX-loaded micelles exhibited a spherical shape. The particle size determined by dynamic light scattering was 126 nm, and the zeta potential was +19.3 mV. The drug loading efficiency and entrapment efficiency were 9.1% and 81.2%, respectively. X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) analysis showed that the PTX was encapsulated in the micelles in a molecular or amorphous state. In vitro and in vivo antitumor evaluations demonstrated the excellent antitumor activity of PTX-loaded micelles. It was suggested that FA-CS-DA was a safe and effective carrier for the intravenous delivery of paclitaxel.

Deoxycholic acid (DA) is a typical bile acid that is secreted from the gallbladder to emulsify fats and other hydrophobic compounds. As an endogenous compound with a lipophilic nature, the introduction of DA to CS could adjust the hydrophilicity/hydrophobicity balance of the conjugate and would not lead to any serious toxicity. DA has been approved as an excellent pharmaceutical additive for injection. Molecular ligands were often grafted onto drug carriers to develop tumor-targeted drug delivery systems. It has been reported that folate receptors are over-expressed in many types of cancers, while almost undetectable in healthy tissues. The folic acid-modified nanocarriers could improve therapeutic efficacy via folate receptor-mediated active targeting. The antitumor efficiency could be significantly enhanced by synergetic active and passive tumor targeting. Based on the above, in present study, a biocompatible nanocarrier based on deoxycholic acid and folic acid-modified chitosan (FA-CS-DA) was designed for targeting the delivery of PTX. The synthesis, characterization and self-assembly of FA-CS-DA and the characterization and in vitro/in vivo antitumor activity of PTX-loaded micelles were studied in detail. (Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Oct 12;19(10).)

Novel phytochemical-antibiotic conjugates as multitarget inhibitors of Pseudomononas aeruginosa GyrB/ParE and DHFR

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BACKGROUND: There is a dearth of treatment options for community-acquired and nosocomial Pseudomonas infections due to several rapidly emerging multidrug resistant phenotypes, which show resistance even to combination therapy. As an alternative, developing selective promiscuous hybrid compounds for simultaneous modulation of multiple targets is highly appreciated because it is difficult for the pathogen to develop resistance when an inhibitor has activity against multiple targets.
METHODS: In line with our previous work on phytochemical-antibiotic combination assays and knowledge-based methods, using a fragment combination approach we here report a novel drug design strategy of conjugating synergistic phytochemical-antibiotic combinations into a single hybrid entity for multi-inhibition of P. aeruginosa DNA gyrase subunit B (GyrB)/topoisomerase IV subunit B (ParE) and dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) enzymes. The designed conjugates were evaluated for their multitarget specificity using various computational methods including docking and dynamic simulations, drug-likeness using molecular properties calculations, and pharmacophoric features by stereoelectronic property predictions.
RESULTS: Evaluation of the designed hybrid compounds based on their physicochemical properties has indicated that they are promising drug candidates with drug-like pharmacotherapeutic profiles. In addition, the stereoelectronic properties such as HOMO (highest occupied molecular orbital), LUMO (lowest unoccupied molecular orbital), and MEP (molecular electrostatic potential) maps calculated by quantum chemical methods gave a good correlation with the common pharmacophoric features required for multitarget inhibition. Furthermore, docking and dynamics simulations revealed that the designed compounds have favorable binding affinity and stability in both the ATP-binding sites of GyrB/ParE and the folate-binding site of DHFR, by forming strong hydrogen bonds and hydrophobic interactions with key active site residues.
CONCLUSION: This new design concept of hybrid “phyto-drug” scaffolds, and their simultaneous perturbation of well-established antibacterial targets from two unrelated pathways, appears to be very promising and could serve as a prospective lead in multitarget drug discovery.