ATRP-grown protein-polymer conjugates containing phenylpiperazine selectively enhance transepithelial protein transport

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Despite its patient-friendliness, the oral route is not yet a viable strategy for the delivery of biomacromolecular therapeutics. This is, in part, due to the large size of proteins, which greatly limits their absorption across the intestinal epithelium. Although chemical permeation enhancers can improve macromolecular transport, their positive impact is often accompanied by toxicity. One element potentially contributing to this toxicity is the lack of co-localization of the enhancer with the protein drug, which can result in non-specific permeation of the intestine as well as enhancer overdosing in some areas due to non-uniform distribution. To circumvent these issues, this study describes a new way of increasing protein permeability via a polymer conjugation process that co-localizes permeation enhancer with the protein. Based on previous reports demonstrating the utility of 1-phenylpiperazine as an intestinal permeation enhancer, we synthesized protein-polymer conjugates with a phenylpiperazine-containing polymer using polymer-based protein engineering. A novel phenylpiperazine acrylamide monomer was synthesized and chain extended using atom transfer radical polymerization from the model protein bovine serum albumin (BSA). At non-cytotoxic doses, the protein-polymer conjugates induced a dose dependent reduction in the trans-epithelial electrical resistance of Caco-2 monolayers and an impressive ˜ 30-fold increase in BSA permeability. Furthermore, this permeability increase was selective, as the permeability of the small molecule calcein co-incubated with the protein-polymer conjugate increased only 5-fold. Together, these data represent an important first step in the development of protein polymer conjugates that facilitate selective protein transport across membranes that are typically impermeable to macromolecules.

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