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Salivary proteins such as histatins (HTNs) have demonstrated critical biological functions directly related to tooth homeostasis and prevention of dental caries. However, HTNs are susceptible to the high proteolytic activities in the oral environment. Therefore, pH-sensitive chitosan nanoparti-cles (CNs) have been proposed as potential carriers to protect proteins from enzymatic degradation at physiological salivary pH. Four different types of chitosan polymers were investigated and the optimal formulation had good batch to batch reproducibility, with an average hydrodynamic diame-ter of 144 ± 6 nm, a polydispersity index of 0.15 ± 0.04, and a zeta potential of 18 ± 4 mV at a final pH of 6.3. HTN3 encapsulation and release profiles were characterized by cationic polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The CNs successfully encapsulated HTN3 and selectively swelled at acidic pH to facilitate HTN3 release. Protection of HTN3 against enzymatic degradation was investigated in diluted whole saliva. HTN3 encapsulated in the CNs had a prolonged survival time compared to the free HTN3. CNs with and without HTN3 also successfully reduced biofilm weight and bacterial viability. The results of this study have demonstrated the suitability of CNs as potential protein carriers for oral applications, especially for complications occurring at acidic conditions.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. This article is available at:

Zhu, Y.; Marin, L.M.; Xiao, Y.; Gillies, E.R.; Siqueira, W.L. pH-Sensitive Chitosan Nanoparticles for Salivary Protein Delivery. Nanomaterials 2021, 11, 1028.

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