A Generalized System for Photoresponsive Membrane Rupture in Polymersomes



Polymersomes are vesicles whose membranes comprise self-assembled block copolymers. It has recently been shown that co-encapsulating conjugated multiporphyrin dyes in a polymersome membrane with ferritin protein in the aqueous lumen confers photolability to the polymersome. In the present study, the photolability is shown to be extendable to vesicles containing dextran, an inert and inexpensive polysaccharide, as the luminal solute. How structural features of the polymersome/porphyrin/dextran composite affect its photoresponse is explored. Increasing dextran molecular weight, decreasing block copolymer molecular weight, and altering fluorophore-membrane interactions results in increasing the photoresponsiveness of the polymersomes. Amphiphilic interactions of the luminal encapsulant with the membrane coupled with localized heat production in the hydrophobic bilayer likely cause differential thermal expansion in the membrane and the subsequent membrane rupture. This study suggests a general approach to impart photoresponsiveness to any biomimetic vesicle system without chemical modification, as well as a simple, bio-inert method for constructing photosensitive carriers for controlled release of encapsulants.