Surface PEG Grafting Density Determines Magnetic Relaxation Properties of Gd-Loaded Porous Nanoparticles for MR Imaging Applications

Zhang, Wuyuan; Martinelli, Jonathan; Peters, Joop A.; Hengst, Jacob M.A. Van; Bouwmeester, Hans; Kramer, Evelien; Bonnet, Célia S.; Szeremeta, Frédéric; Tóth, Éva; Djanashvili, Kristina


Surface PEGylation of nanoparticles designed for biomedical applications is a common and straightforward way to stabilize the materials for in vivo administration and to increase their circulation time. This strategy becomes less trivial when MRI active porous nanomaterials are concerned as their function relies on water/proton-exchange between the pores and bulk water. Here we present a comprehensive study on the effects of PEGylation on the relaxometric properties of nanozeolite LTL (dimensions of 20 × 40 nm) ion-exchanged with paramagnetic GdIII ions. We evidence that as long as the surface grafting density of the PEG chains does not exceed the "mushroom" regime (conjugation of up to 6.2 wt % of PEG), Gd-LTL retains a remarkable longitudinal relaxivity (38 s-1 mM-1 at 7 T and 25 °C) as well as the pH-dependence of the longitudinal and transverse relaxation times. At higher PEG content, the more compact PEG layer (brush regime) limits proton/water diffusion and exchange between the interior of LTL and the bulk, with detrimental consequences on relaxivity. Furthermore, PEGylation of Gd-LTL dramatically decreases the leakage of toxic GdIII ions in biological media and in the presence of competing anions, which together with minimal cytotoxicity renders these materials promising probes for MRI applications.