Bio-Inspired Amphoteric Polymer for Triggered-Release Drug Delivery on Breast Cancer Cells Based on Metal Coordination

Pin Chun Chen, James J. Lai, Chun Jen Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Nanoscale coordination polymers are promising vehicles for anticancer drug delivery because their surface composition and particle size can be tuned to exploit the enhanced permeability and retention effect, and their reversible interaction with metal cations enables triggered drug release at the tumor site. Here, we develop a novel nanoscale coordination polymer using the diblock copolymer poly(2-methacryloyloxyethyl phosphorylcholine)-block-poly(serinyl acrylate) (PMPC-b-PserA) and demonstrate its use for encapsulation of a hydrophobic drug and triggered drug release to induce breast cancer cell apoptosis in vitro. The zwitterionic PMPC block was inspired by the antifouling structure of cell membranes, and the PserA block was inspired by the amphoteric amino acids of proteins. The polymer was synthesized by reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerization, and a mixture of the polymer and FeCl3 self-assembled into nanoparticles via complexation of Fe3+ with PserA, with the hydrophilic PMPC block at the particle surface. At a molar ratio of Fe3+ to serA of 3:1, the hydrodynamic diameter of the particles was 22.2 nm. Curcumin, a natural water-insoluble polyphenol used to enhance the effects of chemotherapeutics, was encapsulated in the particles as an oil-in-water emulsion, with an encapsulation efficiency of 99.6% and a particle loading capacity of 32%. Triggered release of curcumin was achieved by adding deferoxamine, an FDA-approved Fe3+ chelating agent; curcumin release efficiency increased at higher deferoxamine concentrations and lower pH. Triggered release of curcumin induced apoptosis in human triple-negative breast cancer cells; cell viability decreased to 34.3% after 24 h of treatment with the curcumin-loaded nanoparticles and deferoxamine, versus >80% viability without deferoxamine to trigger drug release. The biocompatibility, tunable composition and size, high hydrophobic drug loading, and triggered-release capability of this nanoscale coordination polymer make it well-suited for use in anticancer drug delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25663-25673
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number22
StatePublished - 9 Jun 2021


  • anticancer drug delivery
  • diblock zwitterionic copolymer
  • nanoscale coordination polymer
  • polymeric colloid
  • triggered release


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