Synthesis and physicochemical characterization of amphiphilic block copolymers bearing acid-sensitive orthoester linkage as the drug carrier

Thavasyappan Thambi, V. G. Deepagan, Chang Kyoo Yoo, Jae Hyung Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Amphiphilic block copolymers bearing an acid-sensitive orthoester linkage, composed of hydrophilic poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and hydrophobic poly(γ-benzyl L-glutamate) (PBLG), were prepared as the carrier capable of selectively releasing the hydrophobic drug at the mildly acidic condition. Diblock copolymers with various lengths of PBLG were synthesized via ring opening polymerization of benzyl glutamate NCA in the presence of the acid-labile PEG as a macroinitiator. Owing to their amphiphilicities, the copolymers formed spherical micelles in aqueous conditions, and their particle sizes (22-106 nm in diameter) were dependent on the block length of PBLG. These nanoparticles were stable in the physiological buffer (pH 7.4), whereas they were readily decomposed under the acidic condition. In particular, the block copolymer with a smaller hydrophobic portion was rapidly disassembled under the acidic condition. Doxorubicin (DOX), chosen as the model anti-cancer drug, was effectively encapsulated into the hydrophobic core of the micelles using the solvent casting method. The loading efficiency depended on the hydrophobic block length of the copolymer; i.e., the longer hydrophobic block allowed for loading of larger amounts of the drug. In vitro release studies demonstrated that DOX was slowly released from the pH-sensitive micelles in the physiological buffer (pH 7.4), whereas the release rate of DOX significantly increased under the acidic condition (pH 5.0). From the in vitro cytotoxicity test, it was found that DOX-loaded pH-sensitive micelles showed higher toxicity to SCC7 cancer cells than DOX-loaded micelles without the orthoester linker. These results suggest that the amphiphilic block copolymer bearing the orthoester linkage is useful for pH-triggered delivery of the hydrophobic drug.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4753-4759
Number of pages7
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Doxorubicin
  • Orthoester
  • pH-sensitive micelle

Cite this