Understanding the dendrimer-drug interaction is of great importance to design and optimize the dendrimer-based drug delivery system. Using atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we have analyzed the release pattern of four ligands (two soluble drugs, namely, salicylic acid (Sal), L-alanine (Ala), and two insoluble drugs, namely, phenylbutazone (Pbz) and primidone (Prim)), which were initially encapsulated inside the ethylenediamine (EDA) cored polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimer using the docking method. We have computed the potential of mean force (PMF) variation with generation 5 (G5)-PAMAM dendrimer complexed with drug molecules using umbrella sampling. From our calculated PMF values, we observe that soluble drugs (Sal and Ala) have lower energy barriers than insoluble drugs (Pbz and Prim). The order of ease of release pattern for these drugs from G5 protonated PAMAM dendrimer was found to be Ala > Sal > Prim > Pbz. In the case of insoluble drugs (Prim and Pbz), because of larger size, we observe much nonpolar contribution, and thus, their larger energy barriers can be reasoned to van der Waals contribution. From the hydrogen bonding analysis of the four PAMAM-drug complexes under study, we found intermolecular hydrogen bonding to show less significant contribution to the free energy barrier. Another interesting feature appears while calculating the PMF profile of G5NP (nonprotonated)-PAMAM-Pbz and G5NP (nonprotonated)-PAMAM-Sal complex. The PMF was found to be less when the drug is bound to nonprotonated dendrimer compared to the protonated dendrimer. Our results suggest that encapsulation of the drug molecule into the host PAMAM dendrimer should be carried out at higher pH values (near pH 10). When such complex enters the human body, the pH is around 7.4 and at that physiological pH, the dendrimer holds the drug tightly. Hence the release of drug can occur at a controlled rate into the bloodstream. Thus, our findings provide a microscopic picture of the encapsulation and controlled release of drugs in the case of dendrimer-based host-guest systems.
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