Physiochemical properties of low and high molecular weight poly(ethylene glycol)-grafted poly(ethylene imine) copolymers and their complexes with oligonucleotides

Martin Glodde, Shashank R. Sirsi, Gordon J. Lutz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

97 Scopus citations


Inefficient delivery of antisense oligonucleotides (AOs) to target cell nuclei remains as the foremost limitation to their usefulness. Copolymers of cationic poly(ethylene imine) (PEI) and poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) have been well-studied for delivery of plasmids. However, the properties of PEG-PEI-AO polyplexes have not been comprehensively investigated. Therefore, we synthesized a series of PEG-PEI copolymers and evaluated their physiochemical properties alone and when complexed with AO. The Mw of PEG was found to be the main determinant of polyplex size, via its influence on particle aggregation. DLS measurements showed that when PEG5000 was grafted to PEI2K and PEI25K, polyplex diameters were extremely small (range 10-90 nm) with minimal aggregation. In contrast, when PEG550 was grafted to PEI2K and PEI25K, polyplexes appeared as much larger aggregates (∼250 nm). As expected, the surface charge (ζ potential) was higher for polyplexes containing PEI25K than those containing PEI2K, but decreased with increased levels of PEG grafting. Surprisingly, within the physiological range (pH 7.5-5), the buffering capacity of all copolymers was nearly equivalent to that of unsubstituted PEI2K or PEI25K, and was barely influenced by PEGylation. The stability of polyplexes was evaluated using a heparin polyanion competition assay. Unexpectedly, polyplexes containing PEI2K showed stability equal to or greater than that of PEI25K polyplexes. The level of PEG grafting also had a dramatic effect on polyplex stability. The relationships established between molecular formulations and polyplex size, aggregation, surface charge, and stability should provide a useful guide for future studies aimed at optimizing polymer-mediated AO delivery in cell and animal studies. A summary of the relationships between polyplex structures and recent studies of their transfection capacity is provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-356
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry

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