In this work, we report the preparation, the characterization and interaction with cells of novel pH-sensitive non-phospholipid vesicle formulations, from a non-ionic surfactant mixed with cholesterol (CHOL) and his derivative cholesteryl hemisuccinate (CHEMS), as pH-sensitive molecule. This molecule, can destabilize the vesicle lipid bilayer when exposed to an acidic environment, with a subsequent release of vesicular content, enhancing the cytoplasmatic delivery of drugs to target cells.
Vesicles were characterized by static and dynamic light scattering, in order to evaluate their dimensions, bilayer thickness and vesicle stability. Membrane permeability changes were determined by the release of entrapped hydroxypyrene-1,3,6-trisulfonic acid (HPTS). Also diphenylhesatriene (DPH) fluorescence anisotropy and ζ potential measurements were used to evidence the pH sensitivity. Furthermore vesicles were characterized by means of electronic microscopy after freeze-fracture. The interaction of non-lipid vesicles containing different fluorescent dyes with Raw 264.7, mouse monocite macrophage, were analyzed by flow cytometric analysis. The obtained results indicate that the pH-sensitive vesicular structures show good plasma stability and relevant pH-sensitivity. Moreover this formulation was able to interact with target membranes (i.e. plasma or endosomal membrane) and to release the encapsulated material into the cytoplasm.