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We utilize a series of structurally homologous, multi-porphyrin-based, fluorophores (PBFs) in order to explore the capacity of polymer vesicles (polymersomes) to stably incorporate large hydrophobic molecules, non-covalently within their thick lamellar membranes. Through aqueous hydration of dry, uniform thin-films of amphiphilic polymer and PBF species deposited on Teflon, self-assembled polymersomes are readily generated incorporating the hydrophobic fluorophores in prescribed molar ratios within their membranes. The size-dependent spectral properties of the PBFs allow for ready optical verification (via steady-state absorption and emission spectroscopy) of the extent of vesicle membrane loading and enable delineation of intermembranous molecular interactions. The resultant effects of PBF membrane-loading on polymersome thermodynamic and mechanical stability are further assessed by cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) and micropipet aspiration, respectively. We demonstrate that polymersomes can be loaded at up to 10 mol/wt% concentrations, with hydrophobic molecules that possess sizes comparable to those of large pharmaceutical conjugates (e.g. ranging 1.4–5.4 nm in length and Mw = 0.7–5.4 kg mol–1), without significantly compromising the robust thermodynamic and mechanical stabilities of these synthetic vesicle assemblies. Due to membrane incorporation, hydrophobic encapsulants are effectively prevented from self-aggregation, able to be highly concentrated in aqueous solution, and successfully shielded from deleterious environmental interactions. Together, these studies present a generalized paradigm for the generation of complex multi-functional materials that combine both hydrophilic and hydrophobic agents, in mesoscopic dimensions, through cooperative self-assembly.
Date Posted: 08 December 2006
This document has been peer reviewed.