Stealth effect of short polyoxazolines in graft copolymers: Minor changes of backbone end group determine liver cell-type specificity.
*equal contribution #corresponding author
Dye-loaded micelles of 10 nm diameter formed from amphiphilic graft copolymers composed of a hydrophobic poly(methyl methacrylate) backbone and hydrophilic poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline) side chains with a degree of polymerization of 15 were investigated concerning their cellular interaction and uptake in vitro as well as their interaction with local and circulating cells of the reticuloendothelial system in the liver by intravital microscopy. Despite the high molar mass of the individual macromolecules (Mn ≈ 20 kg mol-1), backbone end group modification by attachment of a hydrophilic anionic fluorescent probe strongly affected the in vivo performance. To understand these effects, the end group was additionally modified by the attachment of four methacrylic acid repeating units. Although various micelles appeared similar in dynamic light scattering and cryo-transmission electron microscopy, changes in the micelles were evident from principal component analysis of the Raman spectra. Whereas an efficient stealth effect was found for micelles formed from polymers with anionically charged or thiol end groups, a hydrophobic end group altered the micelles' structure sufficiently to adapt cell-type specificity and stealth properties in the liver.