Self-assembly of BODIPY based pH-sensitive near-infrared polymeric micelles for drug controlled delivery and fluorescence imaging applications†
Responsive block copolymer micelles emerging as promising imaging and drug delivery systems show high stability and on-demand drug release activities. Herein, we developed self-assembled pH-responsive NIR emission micelles entrapped with doxorubicin (DOX) within the cores by the electrostatic interactions for fluorescence imaging and chemotherapy applications. The block copolymer, poly(methacrylic acid)-block-poly[(poly(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate)-co-boron dipyrromethene derivatives] (PMAA-b-P(PEGMA-co-BODIPY)), was synthesized via reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization, and the molecular weight distribution of this copolymer was narrow (Mw/Mn = 1.31). The NIR fluorescence enhancement induced by the phenol/phenolate interconversion equilibrium works as a switch in response to the intracellular pH fluctuations. DOX-loaded PMAA-b-P(PEGMA-co-BODIPY) micelles can detect the physiological pH fluctuations with a pKa near physiological conditions (∼7.52), and showed pH-responsive collapse and an obvious acid promoted anticancer drug release behavior (over 58.8–62.8% in 10 h). Real-time imaging of intracellular pH variations was performed and a significant chemotherapy effect was demonstrated against HeLa cells.