Lycopene is a natural anti-oxidant that has attracted much attention due to its varied applications such as protection against loss of bone mass, chronic diseases, skin cancer, prostate cancer, and cardiovascular disease. However, high instability and extremely low oral bioavailability limit its further clinical development. We selected a green tea catechin derivative, oligomerized (-)-epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (OEGCG) as a carrier for oral lycopene delivery. Lycopene-loaded OEGCG nanoparticles (NPs) were prepared by a nano-precipitation method, followed by coating with chitosan to form a shell. This method not only can easily control the size of the NP to be around 200 nm to improve its bioavailability, but also can effectively protect the lycopene against degradation due to EGCG's anti-oxidant property. OEGCG was carefully characterized with nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Lycopene-loaded polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) NPs were prepared by the same method. Chitosan-coated OEGCG/lycopene NPs had a diameter of 152 ± 32 nm and a ζ-potential of 58.3 ± 4.2 mv as characterized with transmission electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. The loading capacity of lycopene was 9% and encapsulation efficiency was 89%. FT-IR spectral analysis revealed electrostatic interaction between OEGCG and chitosan. Freeze drying of the NPs was also evaluated as a means to improve shelf life. Dynamic light scattering data showed that no aggregation occurred, and the size of the NP increased 1.2 times (Sf / Si ratio) in the presence of 10% sucrose after freeze drying. The in vitro release study showed slow release of lycopene in simulated gastric fluid at acidic pH and faster release in simulated intestinal fluid. In an in vivo study in mice, lycopene pharmacokinetic parameters were improved by lycopene/OEGCG/chitosan NPs, but not improved by lycopene/PLGA/chitosan NPs. The self-assembled nanostructure of OEGCG combined with lycopene may be a promising application in oral drug delivery in various indications.Graphical abstract
Chemical structures of oligomerized (-)-epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (OEGCG) synthesized from the intermolecular polycondensation reaction of EGCG, and a schematic of the self-assembly process used to form the lycopene/OEGCG/chitosan nanoparticles (NPs), which are formed via two sequential self-assembly processes in an aqueous solution: complexation of OEGCG with lycopene to form the core, followed by coating with chitosan to form the shell.