Polyethylene glycol (PEG) functionalization of non-viral vectors represents a powerful tool through the formation of an overall surface charge shielding ability, which is fundamental for efficient nucleic acid delivery systems. The degree of non-viral vector PEGylation and the molecular weight of utilized PEG is crucial since the excessive use of PEG units may lead to a considerable reduction of the DNA-binding capacity and, subsequently, in a reduction of in vitro transfection efficiency. Herein, we report a detailed study on a series of dynamic combinatorial frameworks (DCFs) containing PEGylated squalene, poly-(ethyleneglycol)-bis(3-aminopropyl) of different lengths, and branched low molecular weight polyethylenimine components, reversibly connected in hyperbranched structures, as efficient dynamic non-viral vectors. The obtained frameworks were capable of forming distinct supramolecular amphiphilic architectures, shown by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and dynamic light scattering (DLS), with sizes and stability depending on the length of PEG units. The interaction of PEGylated DCFs with nucleic acids was investigated by agarose gel retardation assay and atomic force microscopy (AFM), while their transfection efficiency (using pCS2+MT-Luc DNA as a reporter gene) and cytotoxicity were evaluated in HeLa cells. In addition, the data on the influence of the poly-(ethyleneglycol)-bis(3-aminopropyl) length in composition of designed frameworks over transfection efficiency and tolerance in human cells were analyzed and compared.
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