Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering - Research Publications

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    Influence of protein corona on the interaction of glycogen-siRNA constructs with ex vivo human blood immune cells.
    Wojnilowicz, M ; Laznickova, P ; Ju, Y ; Ang, C-S ; Tidu, F ; Bendickova, K ; Forte, G ; Plebanski, M ; Caruso, F ; Cavalieri, F ; Fric, J (Elsevier BV, 2022-09)
    Glycogen-nucleic acid constructs i.e., glycoplexes are emerging promising platforms for the alteration of gene expression and transcription. Understanding the interaction of glycoplexes with human blood components, such as serum proteins and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), is important to overcome immune cell activation and control biodistribution upon administration of the glycoplexes in vivo. Herein, we investigated the interactions of polyethylene glycol (PEG)ylated and non-PEGylated glycoplexes carrying siRNA molecules with PBMCs isolated from the blood of healthy donors. We found that both types of glycoplexes were non-toxic and were primarily phagocytosed by monocytes without triggering a pro-inflammatory interleukin 6 cytokine production. Furthermore, we investigated the role of the protein corona on controlling the internalization efficiency in immune cells - we found that the adsorption of serum proteins, in particular haptoglobin, alpha-1-antitrypsin and apolipoprotein A-II, onto the non-PEGylated glycoplexes, significantly reduced the uptake of the glycoplexes by PBMCs. Moreover, the non-PEGylated glycoplexes were efficient in the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) knockdown in monocytic THP-1 cell line. This study provides an insight into the rational design of glycogen-based nanocarriers for the safe delivery of siRNA without eliciting unwanted immune cell activation and efficient siRNA activity upon its delivery.
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    Engineering Programmable DNA Particles and Capsules Using Catechol-Functionalized DNA Block Copolymers
    Kim, CJ ; Ercole, F ; Goudeli, E ; Bhangu, SK ; Chen, J ; Faria, M ; Quinn, JF ; Caruso, F (American Chemical Society (ACS), 2022-08-23)
    DNA block copolymer (DBC) assemblies have attracted attention because of their tunable properties (e.g., programmability, high biocompatibility, efficient cellular uptake, and stability against enzymatic degradation); however, controlling the size of DNA block copolymer assemblies and preparing well-defined DNA-functionalized particle systems are challenging. Herein, we report the preparation of DBC-based particles and capsules with different sizes (i.e., from approximately 0.15 to 3.2 μm) and a narrow size distribution (i.e., polydispersity index <0.2) through the assembly of catechol-functionalized DBC, DNA-b-poly(methyl methacrylate-co-2-methacryloylethyl dihydrocaffeate, with metal ions (e.g., FeIII). This assembly process largely exploits the coordination bonding of the metal ions and phenolic (i.e., catechol) groups, forming metal-phenolic networks (MPNs). The DBC-FeIIIMPN capsules formed are stable under acidic, metal-chelating, and surfactant solutions because of the coexistence of metal coordination, hydrogen bonding, and hydrophobic interactions. The molecular recognition properties of the DNA strands enable tailorable interactions with small molecules and nanoparticles and are used to tune the permeability of the assembled capsules (>40% permeability decrease for 2000 kDa fluorescein isothiocyanate dextran compared with untreated capsules). The DBC-FeIIIMPN particles show efficient cellular uptake and endosomal escape capability, allowing the efficient delivery of small-interfering RNA for gene silencing (89% downregulation). The reported approach provides the rational design of a range of DNA-functionalized particles, which can potentially be applied in materials science and biomedical applications.
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    Next-generation enhanced-efficiency fertilizers for sustained food security
    Lam, SK ; Wille, U ; Hu, H-W ; Caruso, F ; Mumford, K ; Liang, X ; Pan, B ; Malcolm, B ; Roessner, U ; Suter, H ; Stevens, G ; Walker, C ; Tang, C ; He, J-Z ; Chen, D (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2022-07-21)
    Nitrogen losses in agricultural systems can be reduced through enhanced-efficiency fertilizers (EEFs), which control the physicochemical release from fertilizers and biological nitrogen transformations in soils. The adoption of EEFs by farmers requires evidence of consistent performance across soils, crops and climates, paired with information on the economic advantages. Here we show that the benefits of EEFs due to avoided social costs of nitrogen pollution considerably outweigh their costs—and must be incorporated in fertilizer policies. We outline new approaches to the design of EEFs using enzyme inhibitors with modifiable chemical structures and engineered, biodegradable coatings that respond to plant rhizosphere signalling molecules.
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    Anti-PEG Antibodies Boosted in Humans by SARS-CoV-2 Lipid Nanoparticle mRNA Vaccine
    Ju, Y ; Lee, WS ; Pilkington, EH ; Kelly, HG ; Li, S ; Selva, KJ ; Wragg, KM ; Subbarao, K ; Nguyen, THO ; Rowntree, LC ; Allen, LF ; Bond, K ; Williamson, DA ; Truong, NP ; Plebanski, M ; Kedzierska, K ; Mahanty, S ; Chung, AW ; Caruso, F ; Wheatley, AK ; Juno, JA ; Kent, SJ (AMER CHEMICAL SOC, 2022-06-27)
    Humans commonly have low level antibodies to poly(ethylene) glycol (PEG) due to environmental exposure. Lipid nanoparticle (LNP) mRNA vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 contain small amounts of PEG, but it is not known whether PEG antibodies are enhanced by vaccination and what their impact is on particle-immune cell interactions in human blood. We studied plasma from 130 adults receiving either the BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) or mRNA-1273 (Moderna) mRNA vaccines or no SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for PEG-specific antibodies. Anti-PEG IgG was commonly detected prior to vaccination and was significantly boosted a mean of 13.1-fold (range 1.0-70.9) following mRNA-1273 vaccination and a mean of 1.78-fold (range 0.68-16.6) following BNT162b2 vaccination. Anti-PEG IgM increased 68.5-fold (range 0.9-377.1) and 2.64-fold (0.76-12.84) following mRNA-1273 and BNT162b2 vaccination, respectively. The rise in PEG-specific antibodies following mRNA-1273 vaccination was associated with a significant increase in the association of clinically relevant PEGylated LNPs with blood phagocytes ex vivo. PEG antibodies did not impact the SARS-CoV-2 specific neutralizing antibody response to vaccination. However, the elevated levels of vaccine-induced anti-PEG antibodies correlated with increased systemic reactogenicity following two doses of vaccination. We conclude that PEG-specific antibodies can be boosted by LNP mRNA vaccination and that the rise in PEG-specific antibodies is associated with systemic reactogenicity and an increase of PEG particle-leukocyte association in human blood. The longer-term clinical impact of the increase in PEG-specific antibodies induced by lipid nanoparticle mRNA vaccines should be monitored. It may be useful to identify suitable alternatives to PEG for developing next-generation LNP vaccines to overcome PEG immunogenicity in the future.
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    Role of Molecular Interactions in Supramolecular Polypeptide-Polyphenol Networks for Engineering Functional Materials
    Han, Y ; Lafleur, RPM ; Zhou, J ; Xu, W ; Lin, Z ; Richardson, JJ ; Caruso, F (AMER CHEMICAL SOC, 2022-07-01)
    Supramolecular assembly affords the development of a wide range of polypeptide-based biomaterials for drug delivery and nanomedicine. However, there remains a need to develop a platform for the rapid synthesis and study of diverse polypeptide-based materials without the need for employing complex chemistries. Herein, we develop a versatile strategy for creating polypeptide-based materials using polyphenols that display multiple synergistic cross-linking interactions with different polypeptide side groups. We evaluated the diverse interactions operating within these polypeptide-polyphenol networks via binding affinity, thermodynamics, and molecular docking studies and found that positively charged polypeptides (Ka of ∼2 × 104 M-1) and polyproline (Ka of ∼2 × 106 M-1) exhibited stronger interactions with polyphenols than other amino acids (Ka of ∼2 × 103 M-1). Free-standing particles (capsules) were obtained from different homopolypeptides using a template-mediated strategy. The properties of the capsules varied with the homopolypeptide used, for example, positively charged polypeptides produced thicker shell walls (120 nm) with reduced permeability and involved multiple interactions (i.e., electrostatic and hydrogen), whereas uncharged polypeptides generated thinner (10 nm) and more permeable shell walls due to the dominant hydrophobic interactions. Polyarginine imparted cell penetration and endosomal escape properties to the polyarginine-tannic acid capsules, enabling enhanced delivery of the drug doxorubicin (2.5 times higher intracellular fluorescence after 24 h) and a corresponding higher cell death in vitro when compared with polyproline-tannic acid capsules. The ability to readily complex polyphenols with different types of polypeptides highlights that a wide range of functional materials can be generated for various applications.
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    Protein precoating modulates biomolecular coronas and nanocapsule-immune cell interactions in human blood
    Li, S ; Ju, Y ; Zhou, J ; Faria, M ; Ang, C-S ; Mitchell, AJ ; Zhong, Q-Z ; Zheng, T ; Kent, SJ ; Caruso, F (ROYAL SOC CHEMISTRY, 2022-06-09)
    The biomolecular corona that forms on particles upon contact with blood plays a key role in the fate and utility of nanomedicines. Recent studies have shown that precoating nanoparticles with serum proteins can improve the biocompatibility and stealth properties of nanoparticles. However, it is not fully clear how precoating influences biomolecular corona formation and downstream biological responses. Herein, we systematically examine three precoating strategies by coating bovine serum albumin (single protein), fetal bovine serum (FBS, mixed proteins without immunoglobulins), or bovine serum (mixed proteins) on three nanoparticle systems, namely supramolecular template nanoparticles, metal-phenolic network (MPN)-coated template (core-shell) nanoparticles, and MPN nanocapsules (obtained after template removal). The effect of protein precoating on biomolecular corona compositions and particle-immune cell interactions in human blood was characterized. In the absence of a pre-coating, the MPN nanocapsules displayed lower leukocyte association, which correlated to the lower amount (by 2-3 fold) of adsorbed proteins and substantially fewer immunoglobulins (more than 100 times) in the biomolecular corona relative to the template and core-shell nanoparticles. Among the three coating strategies, FBS precoating demonstrated the most significant reduction in leukocyte association (up to 97% of all three nanoparticles). A correlation analysis highlights that immunoglobulins and apolipoproteins may regulate leukocyte recognition. This study demonstrates the impact of different precoating strategies on nanoparticle-immune cell association and the role of immunoglobulins in bio-nano interactions.
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    Metal Ion-Directed Functional Metal-Phenolic Materials
    Geng, H ; Zhong, Q-Z ; Li, J ; Lin, Z ; Cui, J ; Caruso, F ; Hao, J (AMER CHEMICAL SOC, 2022-05-10)
    Metal ions are ubiquitous in nature and play significant roles in assembling functional materials in fields spanning chemistry, biology, and materials science. Metal-phenolic materials are assembled from phenolic components in the presence of metal ions through the formation of metal-organic complexes. Alkali, alkali-earth, transition, and noble metal ions as well as metalloids interacting with phenolic building blocks have been widely exploited to generate diverse hybrid materials. Despite extensive studies on the synthesis of metal-phenolic materials, a comprehensive summary of how metal ions guide the assembly of phenolic compounds is lacking. A fundamental understanding of the roles of metal ions in metal-phenolic materials engineering will facilitate the assembly of materials with specific and functional properties. In this review, we focus on the diversity and function of metal ions in metal-phenolic material engineering and emerging applications. Specifically, we discuss the range of underlying interactions, including (i) cation-π, (ii) coordination, (iii) redox, and (iv) dynamic covalent interactions, and highlight the wide range of material properties resulting from these interactions. Applications (e.g., biological, catalytic, and environmental) and perspectives of metal-phenolic materials are also highlighted.
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    Nanostructured particles assembled from natural building blocks for advanced therapies
    Ju, Y ; Liao, H ; Richardson, JJ ; Guo, J ; Caruso, F (ROYAL SOC CHEMISTRY, 2022-04-26)
    Advanced treatments based on immune system manipulation, gene transcription and regulation, specific organ and cell targeting, and/or photon energy conversion have emerged as promising therapeutic strategies against a range of challenging diseases. Naturally derived macromolecules (e.g., proteins, lipids, polysaccharides, and polyphenols) have increasingly found use as fundamental building blocks for nanostructured particles as their advantageous properties, including biocompatibility, biodegradability, inherent bioactivity, and diverse chemical properties make them suitable for advanced therapeutic applications. This review provides a timely and comprehensive summary of the use of a broad range of natural building blocks in the rapidly developing field of advanced therapeutics with insights specific to nanostructured particles. We focus on an up-to-date overview of the assembly of nanostructured particles using natural building blocks and summarize their key scientific and preclinical milestones for advanced therapies, including adoptive cell therapy, immunotherapy, gene therapy, active targeted drug delivery, photoacoustic therapy and imaging, photothermal therapy, and combinational therapy. A cross-comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of different natural building blocks are highlighted to elucidate the key design principles for such bio-derived nanoparticles toward improving their performance and adoption. Current challenges and future research directions are also discussed, which will accelerate our understanding of designing, engineering, and applying nanostructured particles for advanced therapies.
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    Template-Assisted Antibody Assembly: A Versatile Approach for Engineering Functional Antibody Nanoparticles
    Hu, Y ; Li, J ; Ju, Y ; Houston, ZH ; Fletcher, NL ; De Rose, R ; Fernandes, S ; Hagemeyer, CE ; Alt, K ; Thurecht, KJ ; Cortez-Jugo, C ; Caruso, F (American Chemical Society, 2022-04-26)
    The clinical success of monoclonal antibody therapy has inspired research in understanding the fundamental molecular basis of antibody-antigen interactions and the engineering of antibodies and antibody assemblies with enhanced or novel properties. In particular, colloidally stable antibody assemblies can enhance dosing strategies and enable combined therapy of a mixture of antibodies or biologics. Herein, nanoassemblies of therapeutic antibodies were fabricated with controlled physicochemical properties using a versatile template-mediated assembly method. The antibody nanoparticles (AbNPs) cross-linked with poly(ethylene glycol)-N-hydroxysuccinimide were monodispersed, with particle diameters consistent with the template size (250 nm). When assembled using Herceptin or Kadcyla as a model antibody and antibody-drug conjugate, respectively, the nanoparticles retained the selectivity of the monoclonal antibody and recognized >98% of cells expressing the target receptors on cell membranes. Unlike the free Herceptin antibody, which was predominantly localized at the surface, the AbNPs were internalized via receptor-mediated endocytosis, presenting opportunities for delivering monoclonal antibodies intracellularly at high concentrations and/or against intracellular targets. With the vast array of antibodies that could be applied and different cross-linking chemistries possible, the reported antibody assembly strategy provides a versatile platform for the development of antibody assemblies for therapeutic, diagnostic, and clinical applications.
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    Assembly of Metal-Phenolic Networks on Water-Soluble Substrates in Nonaqueous Media
    Mazaheri, O ; Alivand, MS ; Zavabeti, A ; Spoljaric, S ; Pan, S ; Chen, D ; Caruso, F ; Suter, HC ; Mumford, KA (WILEY-V C H VERLAG GMBH, 2022-03-10)
    Interfacial modular assemblies of eco-friendly metal–phenolic networks (MPNs) are of interest for surface and materials engineering. To date, most MPNs are assembled on water-stable substrates; however, the self-assembly of MPNs on highly water-soluble substrates remains unexplored. Herein, a versatile approach is reported to engineer thickness-tunable coatings (2–25 µm) on a water-soluble substrate (i.e., urea) via the self-assembly of MPNs in a nonaqueous solvent (i.e., acetonitrile). The coordination-driven assembly of the MPN coatings in the nonaqueous solvent is distinct from that in aqueous systems, as the assembly is only achieved following the addition of urea granules into the iron–tannin solution. The coating occurs relatively rapidly (5–60 min), generating micrometer-thick coatings from the adsorption of FeIII–TA complexes and micrometer-sized FeIII–TA particles formed in solution. The straightforward nature of the present fabrication method in generating thick and robust coatings with high stability in nonaqueous environments (including at 60 °C) coupled with the broad range of available naturally abundant polyphenol–metal ion combinations expand the applicability of MPNs as coatings for water-soluble materials, thus providing new opportunities for their broader application in a range of industrial processes and applications.