The C-6 positions of chitosan were successively modified in a highly regioselective manner. The starting material, N-phthaloyl-chitosan, was successfully converted into the corresponding 6-deoxy-6-halo derivatives by reaction with N-halosuccinimides and triphenylphosphine in N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone. The resulting chloride and bromide derivatives were then substituted with azido groups by reaction with sodium azide at 120 and 80 °C, respectively. The azido groups were then reduced to amines via formation of the triphenylphosphinimine intermediate followed by hydrolysis using aqueous hydrazine, which also led to the removal of the N-phthaloyl groups at the C-2 positions. This sequence gave 6-amino-6-deoxy-chitosan, which, unlike chitosan, is soluble in water at neutral pH. The synthesized 6-amino-6-deoxy-chitosan derivative was evaluated as a gene carrier, and the transfection efficiency for COS-1 cells was shown to be superior to chitosan. In addition, the cytotoxicity was similar to chitosan.
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