Lysine (K) type cationic lipid with a propyl spacer and ditetradecyl hydrophobic moieties composing liposomes, K3C14, previously studied for gene delivery, were reported to activate the NLRP3 inflammasomes in human macrophages via the conventional phagolysosomal pathway. In this study, K3C16, a propyl spacer bearing lysine type lipids with dihexadecyl moieties (an extension of two hydrocarbon tail length) were compared with K3C14 as liposomes. Such a small change in tail length did not alter the physical properties such as size distribution, zeta potential and polydispersity index (PDI). The NLRP3 activation potency of K3C16 was shown to be 1.5-fold higher. Yet, the toxicity was minimal, whereas K3C14 has shown to cause significant cell death after 24 h incubation. Even in the presence of endocytosis inhibitors, cytochalasin D or dynasore, K3C16 continued to activate the NLRP3 inflammasomes and to induce IL-1β release. To our surprise, K3C16 liposomes were confirmed to fuse with the plasma membrane of human macrophages and CHO-K1 cells. It is demonstrated that the change in hydrophobic tail length by two hydrocarbons drastically changed a cellular entry route and potency in activating the NLRP3 inflammasomes.
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