Carbajo-Gordillo, A. I.; López-Fernández, J.; Benito, J. M.; Jiménez Blanco, J. L.; Santana-Armas, M. L.; Marcelo, G.; Di Giorgio, C.; Przybylski, C.; Ortiz Mellet, C. (Autor de correspondencia); Tros de Ilarduya Apaolaza, María de la Concepción (Autor de correspondencia)
; Mendicuti, F. (Autor de correspondencia); García Fernández, J. M. (Autor de correspondencia)
A robust strategy is reported to build perfectly monodisperse star polycations combining a trehalose-based cyclooligosaccharide (cyclotrehalan, CT) central core onto which oligoethyleneimine radial arms are installed. The architectural perfection of the compounds is demonstrated by a variety of physicochemical techniques, including NMR, MS, DLS, TEM, and GPC. Key to the strategy is the possibility of customizing the cavity size of the macrocyclic platform to enable/prevent the inclusion of adamantane motifs. These properties can be taken into advantage to implement sequential levels of stimuli responsiveness by combining computational design, precision chemistry and programmed host-guest interactions. Specifically, it is shown that supramolecular dimers implying a trimeric CT-tetraethyleneimine star polycation and purposely designed bis-adamantane guests are preorganized to efficiently complex plasmid DNA (pDNA) into transfection-competent nanocomplexes. The stability of the dimer species is responsive to the protonation state of the cationic clusters, resulting in dissociation at acidic pH. This process facilitates endosomal escape, but reassembling can take place in the cytosol then handicapping pDNA nuclear import. By equipping the ditopic guest with a redox-sensitive disulfide group, recapturing phenomena are prevented, resulting in drastically improved transfection efficiencies both in vivo and in vitro.