Facile Synthesis of Multivalent Folate-Block Copolymer Conjugates via Aqueous RAFT Polymerization: Targeted Delivery of siRNA and Subsequent Gene Suppression

Yilin Zhang, University of Southern Mississippi
Faqing Huang, University of Southern Mississippi
Charles L. McCormick, University of Southern Mississippi


Cell specific delivery of small interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA) using well-defined multivalent folate-conjugated block copolymers is reported. Primary amine functional, biocompatible, hydrophilic-block-cationic copolymers were synthesized via aqueous reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization. N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide) (HPMA), a permanently hydrophilic monomer, was copolymerized with a primary amine containing monomer, N-(3-aminopropyl)methacrylamide (APMA). Poly(HPMA) confers biocompatibility, while APMA provides amine functionality, allowing conjugation of folate derivatives. HPMA-stat-APMA was chain extended with a cationic block, poly(N-[3-(dimethylamino)propyl]methacrylamide), to promote electrostatic complexation between the copolymer and the negatively charged phosphate backbone of siRNA. Notably, poly(HPMA) stabilizes the neutral complexes in aqueous solution, while APMA allows the conjugation of a targeting moiety, thus, dually circumventing problems associated with the delivery of genes via cationically charged complexes (universal transfection). Fluorescence microscopy and gene down-regulation studies indicate that these neutral complexes can be specifically delivered to cancer cells that overexpress folate receptors.