The efficiency of cytosolic drug delivery using pH-responsive endosomolytic polymers does not correlate with activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome
Inefficient cytosolic delivery has limited the development of many promising biomacromolecular drugs, a long-standing challenge that has prompted extensive development of drug carriers that facilitate endosomal escape. Although many such carriers have shown considerable promise for cytosolic delivery of a diversity of therapeutics, the rupture or destabilization of endo/lysosomal membranes has also been associated with activation of the inflammasome with attendant risk of inflammation and toxicity. In this study, we investigated relationships between pH-dependent membrane destabilization, cytosolic drug delivery, and inflammasome activation using a series of well-defined poly[(ethylene glycol)-block-[(2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate)-co-(butyl methacrylate)] copolymers of variable second block composition and pH-responsive properties. We found that polymers that demonstrated the most potent membrane-destabilizing activity at early endosomal pH values in an erythrocyte hemolysis assay were most efficient at delivery of siRNA, yet tended to be associated with the least amount of NOD-like related protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome activation. By contrast, polymers that displayed minimal hemolysis activity and poor siRNA knockdown, and instead mediated lysosomal rupture likely due to a proton sponge mechanism, strongly induced NLPR3 inflammasome activation in a caspase- and cathepsin-dependent manner. Collectively, these findings reinforce the importance of early endosomal escape in minimizing inflammasome activation and also demonstrate the ability to tune the degree inflammasome activation via control of polymer structure with potential implications for design of vaccine adjuvants and immunotherapeutics.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Biomaterial Interactions with the Immune System