Published on 31.07.2017

Polylysines are polymers of the canonical amino acid Lysine, and are characterized by their high charge density caused by the presence of one free amino group per lysine monomer.

This also means that in contrast to PEGs, polylysines have one functional group per monomeric unit that can serve as an attachment point for further functionalization.

Naturally occurring polylysines are composed of units of L-lysine which are linked via their epsilon-nitrogen. These epsilon-polylysines can be produced by fermentation from Streptomyces spp., and are common food preservatives in certain Asian countries.

Conversely, N-alpha-linked polylysines can only be accessed via chemical synthesis. Alpha-polylysines are frequently used as coating materials for plastic tissue culture ware. Furthermore, their high density of positive charges renders them an ideal material for solubilization and delivery of insoluble or sensitive compounds into cells. Especially negatively charged compounds such as DNA show a strong interaction with polylysines. Unsurprisingly, polylysines are commonly used as non-viral gene delivery vectors. Modified polylysines, e.g. PEG/PLys copolymers, are promising starting materials for the formation of nanoparticles that can be used to encapsulate sensitive biomolecules, such as enzymes. Lastly, the presence of a multitude of functional groups renders polylysines ideal scaffolds for the multivalent presentation of biologically active molecules, e.g. certain oligosaccharides.

→ Visit our webshop to find a huge variety of Polymeric Carriers, ranging from mono- and polydisperse PEGs to different polyamino acids, to polyoxazolines.


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  • Peptide-Based Multicomponent Oligonucleotide Delivery Systems: Optimisation of Poly-l-lysine Dendrons for Plasmid DNA Delivery; K. A. Kamaruzaman, P. M. Moyle and I. Toth; International Journal of Peptide Research and Therapeutics 2017; 23: 119-134. doi:10.1007/s10989-016-9545-5
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