International Journal of Nanomedicine (2019-07-01)

Regulating intracellular ROS signal by a dual pH/reducing-responsive nanogels system promotes tumor cell apoptosis

  • Dong K,
  • Lei Q,
  • Guo R,
  • Wu X,
  • Zhang Y,
  • Cui N,
  • Shi JY,
  • Lu T

Journal volume & issue
Vol. Volume 14
pp. 5713 – 5728


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Kai Dong,* Qiuya Lei,* Runhao Guo, Xianglong Wu, Yanni Zhang, Ning Cui, Jian-Yu Shi, Tingli LuKey Laboratory for Space Bioscience and Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences, Northwestern Polytechnical University, Xi’an, Shaanxi, People’s Republic of China*These authors contributed equally to this workPurpose: The levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in tumor cells are much higher than that in normal cells, and rise rapidly under the influence of exogenous or endogenous inducing factors, eventually leading to the apoptosis of tumor cells. Therefore, this study prepared a dual pH/reducing-responsive poly (N-isopropylacrylamide-co-Cinnamaldehyde-co-D-α-tocopheryl polyethylene glycol 1000 succinate, PssNCT) nanogels, which employed two exogenous ROS inducers, cinnamaldehyde (CA) and D-α-tocopheryl polyethylene glycol 1000 succinate (TPGS), to selectively induce apoptosis by regulating ROS levels in tumor cells.Methods: The PssNCT nanogels were prepared by the free radical precipitation polymerization under the crosslink between pH-sensitive hydrazone and reducing-sensitive disulfide bonds, followed by the physicochemical and morphological characteristics investigations. Plasma stability, dual pH/reducing responsive degradation and in vitro release were also assessed. In cell experiments, cytotoxicity in different cells were first detected. The intracellular ROS levels and mitochondrial functions of tumor cells were then evaluated. Moreover, the apoptosis and western-blot assays were employed to verify the association between ROS levels elevation and apoptosis in tumor cells.Results: The nanogels exhibited a round-like hollow structure with the diameter smaller than 200nm. The nanogels were stable in plasma, while showed rapid degradation in acidic and reducing environments, thus achieving significant release of CA and TPGS in these media. Furthermore, the sufficient amplification of ROS signals was induced by the synergistically function of CA and TPGS on mitochondria, which resulted in the opening of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway and enhanced cytotoxicity on MCF-7 cells. However, nanogels barely affected L929 cells owing to their lower intracellular ROS basal levels.Conclusion: The specific ROS regulation method achieved by these nanogels could be explored to selectively kill tumor cells according to the difference of ROS signals in different kinds of cells.Keywords: reactive oxygen species, oxidative stress, cinnamaldehyde, TPGS, nanogels