Molecular pharmaceutics

pH-Sensitive Polymeric Nanoparticles with Gold(I) Compound Payloads Synergistically Induce Cancer Cell Death through Modulation of Autophagy.

PMID 26101892


Various nanomaterials have been demonstrated as autophagy inducers owing to their endocytosis cell uptake pathway and impairment of lysosomes. pH-dependent nanomaterials as drug delivery systems that are capable of dissociating in weakly acidic lysosomal environment (pH 4-5) and consequently releasing the payloads into the cytoplasm have been paid extensive attention, but their autophagy-modulating effects are less reported so far. In this study, we report pH-sensitive micelle-like nanoparticles (NPs) that self-assembled from poly(β-amino ester)s to induce cell autophagy. By encapsulation of gold(I) compounds (Au(I)) into hydrophobic domains of NPs, the resultant Au(I)-loaded NPs (Au(I)⊂NPs) shows synergistic cancer cell killing performance. The Au(I)⊂NPs enter cells through endocytosis pathway and accumulate into acidic lysosomes. Subsequently, the protonation of tertiary amines of poly(β-amino ester)s triggers the dissociation of micelles, damages the lysosomes, and blocks formation of autolysosomes from fusion of lysosomes with autophagosomes. In addition, Au(I) preferentially inhibits thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells that directly links to up-regulate reactive oxygen species (ROS) and consequently induce autophagy and apoptosis. The blockade of autophagy leads to excessive depletion of cellular organelles and essential proteins and ultimately results in cell death. Therefore, pH-sensitive polymeric nanoparticles with gold(I) compound payloads can synergistically induce cancer cell death through regulation of autophagy. Identification of the pH-sensitive nanomaterials for synergistically inducing cell death through regulation autophagy may open a new avenue for cancer therapy.