Spatial control over the distribution and the aggregation of arginine-glycine-aspartate (RGD) peptides at the nanoscale significantly affects cell responses. For example, nanoscale clustering of RGD peptides can induce integrins to cluster, thus triggering complete cell signaling. Dendrimers have a unique, highly branched, nearly spherical and symmetrical structure with low polydispersity, nanoscale size, and high functionality. Therefore, dendrimers are a class of ideal scaffold for construction of nanoscale dendritic RGD clusters in which RGD loading degree and cluster size can be finely adjusted. This new type of nanoscale dendritic RGD cluster will aid us to better understand the impact of spatial arrangement of RGD on cellular responses and to engineer RGD to trigger more favorable cellular responses. In this study, nanoscale dendritic RGD clusters were synthesized based on Starburst™ anionic G3.5 and cationic G4.0 polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimers. The multiple terminal functional groups on the outermost layer of the dendrimer were coupled with RGD tripeptides. Biofunctionalized dendrimer structures were found to be highly dependent on the generation and the extent of peptide modification (ie, number of peptides per PAMAM dendrimer). Fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-conjugated PAMAM dendrimers were utilized to monitor cellular internalization of dendrimers by adherent fibroblasts. Anionic G3.5-based dendritic RGD clusters have been shown to have no negative effect on fibroblast viability and a concentration-dependent effect on lowering cell adhesion on tissue culture polystyrene (TCPS) as that of free RGD. A similar concentration-dependent effect in cell viability and adhesion was also observed for cationic G4.0-based dendritic RGD clusters at lower but not at high concentrations. The results imply that the synthesized nanoscale dendritic RGD clusters have great potential for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications
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