- Polyelectrolyte complex (PEC) was prepared by quaternized curdlan (Qcurd) and pectin.
- The Qcurd/pectin PECs showed a spherical morphology and negative zeta potential.
- Hydrophobic curcumin was encapsulated into the nanosized Qcurd/pectin PECs.
- Curcumin-loaded PECs showed high water solubility and antioxidant activities.
- The Qcurd/pectin PECs can be explored as nanovectors for hydrophobic nutraceuticals.
In this study, a positively charged quaternized curdlan (Qcurd) was used to fabricate polyelectrolyte complex nanoparticles (PEC NPs) with a negatively charged pectin via electrostatic complexation. Results showed that the Qcurd/pectin PEC NPs prepared with 0.5 mg/mL Qcurd and pectin solutions, 1:2 pectin/Qcurd mass ratio, and pH 4.0 in the absence of NaCl were characterized by a spherical morphology in nanoscale, an average particle size of 68 nm, and good dispersibility in aqueous solutions. Curcumin was encapsulated in the Qcurd/pectin PEC NPs through hydrogen bonding with an encapsulation efficiency of ∼82%, a loading content of 13%, and a pH-dependent controlled release. Curcumin-loaded PEC NPs exhibited a significantly enhanced water solubility, excellent free radical scavenging ability and antioxidant capacity in vitro as compared with those of free curcumin.