Imaging-Guided pH-Sensitive Photodynamic Therapy Using Charge Reversible Upconversion Nanoparticles under Near-Infrared Light
Chao Wang 1, Liang Cheng 1, Yumeng Liu 2, Xiaojing Wang 1, Xinxing Ma 2, Zhaoyi Deng 3, Yonggang Li 2, and Zhuang Liu 1,*
1Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Carbon-Based Functional Materials & Devices, Institute of Functional Nano & Soft Materials (FUNSOM), Soochow University, Suzhou, Jiangsu 215123, P. R. China
2Department of Radiology, The First Affi liated Hospital of Soochow University, Suzhou, Jiangsu, 215006, P. R. China
3Department of Earth and Space Science, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui, 230026, P. R. China
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) based on upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) can effectively destroy cancer cells under tissue-penetrating near-infrared light (NIR) light. Herein, we synthesize manganese (Mn2 +)-doped UCNPs with strong red light emission at ca. 660 nm under 980 nm NIR excitation to activate Chlorin e6 (Ce6), producing singlet oxygen (1O2) to kill cancer cells. A layer-by-layer (LbL) self-assembly strategy is employed to load multiple layers of Ce6 conjugated polymers onto UCNPs via electrostatic interactions. UCNPs with two layers of Ce6 loading (UCNP@2xCe6) are found to be optimal in terms of Ce6 loading and 1O2 generation. By further coating UCNP@2xCe6 with an outer layer of charge-reversible polymer containing dimethylmaleic acid (DMMA) groups and polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains, we obtain a UCNP@2xCe6-DMMA-PEG nanocomplex, the surface of which is negatively charged and PEG coated under pH 7.4; this could be converted to have a positively charged naked surface at pH 6.8, significantly enhancing cell internalization of nanoparticles and increasing in vitro NIR-induced PDT efficacy. We then utilize the intrinsic optical and paramagnetic properties of Mn2+-doped UCNPs for in vivo dual modal imaging, and uncover an enhanced retention of UCNP@2xCe6-DMMA-PEG inside the tumor after intratumoral injection, owing to the slightly acidic tumor microenvironment. Consequently, a significantly improved in vivo PDT therapeutic effect is achieved using our charge-reversible UCNP@2xCe6-DMMA-PEG nanoparticles. Finally, we further demonstrate the remarkably enhanced tumor-homing of these pH-responsive charge-switchable nanoparticles in comparison to a control counterpart without pH sensitivity after systemic intravenous injection. Our results suggest that UCNPs with finely designed surface coatings could serve as smart pH-responsive PDT agents promising in cancer theranostics.