This study addresses well-known shortcomings of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-based conjugates. PEGylation is by far the most common method employed to overcome immunogenicity and suboptimal pharmacokinetics of, for example, therapeutic proteins but has significant drawbacks. First, PEG offers no protection from denaturation during lyophilization, storage, or oxidation (e.g., by biological oxidants, reactive oxygen species); second, PEG's inherent immunogenicity, leading to hypersensitivity and accelerated blood clearance (ABC), is a growing concern. We have here developed an active-stealth' polymer, poly(thioglycidyl glycerol)(PTGG), which in human plasma is less immunogenic than PEG (35% less complement activation) and features a reactive oxygen species-scavenging and anti-inflammatory action (50% less TNF-α in LPS-stimulated macrophages at only 0.1 mg/mL). PTGG was conjugated to proteins via a one-pot process; molar mass- and grafting density-matched PTGG-lysozyme conjugates were superior to their PEG analogues in terms of enzyme activity and stability against freeze-drying or oxidation; the latter is due to sacrificial oxidation of methionine-mimetic PTGG chains. Both in mice and rats, PTGG-ovalbumin displayed circulation half-lives up to twice as long as PEG-ovalbumin, but most importantly and differently from PEG without any associated ABC effect seen either in the time dependency of blood concentration, in the liver/splenic accumulation, or in antipolymer IgM/IgG titers. Furthermore, similar pharmacokinetic results were obtained with PTGGylated/PEGylated liposomal nanocarriers. PTGG's active-stealth' character therefore makes it a highly promising alternative to PEG for conjugation to biologics or nanocarriers.
- Polyethylene Glycols/metabolism
- Protein Stability
- Reactive Oxygen Species