Lights on: Dye dequenching reveals polymersome fusion with polymer, lipid and stealth lipid vesicles

Ian M. Henderson, Aaron M. Collins, Hope A. Quintana, Gabriel A. Montaño, Julio A. Martinez, Walter F. Paxton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Herein we develop a quantitative dye dequenching technique for the measurement of polymersome fusion, using it to characterize the salt mediated, mechanically-induced fusion of polymersomes with polymer, lipid, and so-called stealth lipid vesicles. While dye dequenching has been used to quantitatively explore liposome fusion in the past, this is the first use of dye dequenching to measure polymersome fusion of which we are aware. In addition to providing quantitative results, dye dequenching is ideal for detecting fusion in instances where DLS results would be ambiguous, such as low yield levels and size ranges outside the capabilities of DLS. The dye chosen for this study was a cyanine derivative, 1,1′-dioctadecyl-3,3,3′,3′-tetramethylindotricarbocyanine iodide (DiR), which proved to provide excellent data on the extent of polymersome fusion. Using this technique, we have shown the limited fusion capabilities of polymersome/liposome heterofusion, notably DOPC vesicles fusing with polymersomes at half the efficiency of polymersome homofusion and DPPC vesicles showing virtually no fusion. In addition to these key heterofusion experiments, we determined the broad applicability of dye dequenching in measuring kinetic rates of polymersome fusion; and showed that even at elevated temperatures or over multiple weeks' time, no polymersome fusion occurred without agitation. Stealth liposomes formed from DPPC and PEO-functionalized lipid, however, fused with polymersomes and stealth liposomes with relatively high efficiency, lending support to our hypothesis that the response of the PEO corona to salt is a key factor in the fusion process. This last finding suggests that although the conjugation of PEO to lipids increases vesicle biocompatibility and enables their longer circulation times, it also renders the vesicles subject to destabilization under high salt and shear (e.g. in the circulatory system) that may lead to, in this case, fusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-245
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Jan 28 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Dye
  • Fusion
  • Lipid
  • Liposome
  • Polymer
  • Polymersome
  • Quenching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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