Peptide-Polymer Conjugates for Therapeutic Applications

Over the last ten years the attention of the pharmaceutical industry has shifted away from small molecules to focus on new biologics such as antibodies, proteins and therapeutic peptides. Herein, peptides have emerged as a particularly interesting category that fills a niche between small molecule chemicals and the larger proteins. Although they have great potential for drug development, their use is still limited due to their intrinsic low systemic stability, rapid renal elimination and poor membrane permeability. Various formulations have been developed to take advantage of their therapeutic properties, one of the most promising strategies being chemical conjugation to a polymer. Peptide-polymer conjugates are hybrid materials that consist of one or more synthetic polymers covalently attached to one or more peptide fragments. The aim of this thesis was to provide an insight into the requirements for the design of peptide-polymer conjugates for therapy. Chapter 1 illustrates the state of the art in the development of peptides for therapeutic applications, exemplifies the different architectures and structures of peptide-polymer conjugates and discusses ongoing efforts to improve and diversify the range and applications of these conjugates. Chapter 2 describes a novel synthetic strategy to prepare PHPMA based peptide-polymer conjugates via thiol chemistry starting from poly(pentafluorophenyl methacrylate). By varying the feed composition, the extent of side chain modification could be controlled. Further modification of the reactive copolymer scaffolds led to the site specific attachment of model peptides. This method was used to synthesize stable as well as pH and redox sensitive peptide-polymer conjugates and the release of the peptide from the polymer backbone was studied in acidic and redox conditions. In Chapter 3, the aim was to construct a peptide-polymer conjugate that could serve to promote intracellular delivery and drug release but also play a role in the intracellular trafficking of the drug. To this end, coiled coil peptides E3/K3 was attached to a PHPMA polymer backbone and was used to facilitate release from the backbone at acidic pH and further endosomal escape. Initially, the membrane lytic properties of E3/K3 and three newly designed E3/K3X motifs on model membranes were investigated as a function of pH. Secondly, the potential application of E3/K3 peptide-polymer conjugate for cytoplasmic delivery was evaluated in vitro. Chapter 4 explores the synthesis and in vitro therapeutic activity of synthetic peptide-polymer conjugates focusing on the inhibition of an oncogenic transcription factor (AP-1). To this end, AFosW peptide, a peptide binder that can interfere with AP-1 formation was attached to a polymer backbone via a redox or pH sensitive linker using a strategy developed in Chapter 2. Fluorescent microscopy and flow cytometry provided an insight into the cellular uptake of these conjugates. Their ability to interfere with AP-1 formation in vitro was quantified. Chapter 5 describes the synthesis of a second generation of peptide-polymer conjugates for AP-1 inhibition that along the FosW dominant negative peptide also incorporates a motif that facilitates endosomal escape and a nuclear localization sequence. To investigate the potential application for therapy, the conjugates were evaluated and compared with regard to their ability to inhibit AP-1 formation in living cells.


Related material