Peptide Brush Polymers and Nanoparticles with Enzyme-Regulated Structure and Charge for Inducing or Evading Macrophage Cell Uptake

Lisa Adamiak, Mollie A. Touve, Clare L.M. Leguyader, Nathan C. Gianneschi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Cellular uptake by macrophages and ensuing clearance by the mononuclear phagocyte system stands as a significant biological barrier for nanoparticle therapeutics. While there is a growing body of work investigating the design principles essential for imparting nanomaterials with long-circulating characteristics and macrophage evasion, there is still a widespread need for examining stimuli-responsive systems, particularly well-characterized soft materials, which differ in their physiochemical properties prior to and after an applied stimulus. In this work, we describe the synthesis and formulation of polymeric nanoparticles (NPs) and soluble homopolymers (Ps) encoded with multiple copies of a peptide substrate for proteases. We examined the macrophage cell uptake of these materials, which vary in their peptide charge and conjugation (via the N- or C-terminus). Following treatment with a model protease, thermolysin, the NPs and Ps undergo changes in their morphology and charge. After proteolysis, zwitterionic NPs showed significant cellular uptake, with the C-terminus NP displaying higher internalization than its N-terminus analogue. Enzyme-cleaved homopolymers generally avoided assembly and uptake, though at higher concentrations, enzyme-cleaved N-terminus homopolymers assembled into discrete cylindrical structures, whereas C-terminus homopolymers remained dispersed. Overall, these studies highlight that maintaining control over NP and polymer design parameters can lead to well-defined biological responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9877-9888
Number of pages12
JournalACS nano
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 24 2017


  • enzyme-responsive
  • macrophage uptake
  • polymeric nanoparticle
  • self-assembly
  • stimuli-responsive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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