Bifunctional Elastin-like Polypeptide Nanoparticles Bind Rapamycin and Integrins and Suppress Tumor Growth in Vivo.
ABSTRACT: Recombinant protein-polymer scaffolds such as elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) offer drug-delivery opportunities including biocompatibility, monodispersity, and multifunctionality. We recently reported that the fusion of FK-506 binding protein 12 (FKBP) to an ELP nanoparticle (FSI) increases rapamycin (Rapa) solubility, suppresses tumor growth in breast cancer xenografts, and reduces side effects observed with free-drug controls. This new report significantly advances this carrier strategy by demonstrating the coassembly of two different ELP diblock copolymers containing drug-loading and tumor-targeting domains. A new ELP nanoparticle (ISR) was synthesized that includes the canonical integrin-targeting ligand (Arg-Gly-Asp, RGD). FSI and ISR mixed in a 1:1 molar ratio coassemble into bifunctional nanoparticles containing both the FKBP domain for Rapa loading and the RGD ligand for integrin binding. Coassembled nanoparticles were evaluated for bifunctionality by performing in vitro cell-binding and drug-retention assays and in vivo MDA-MB-468 breast tumor regression and tumor-accumulation studies. The bifunctional nanoparticle demonstrated superior cell target binding and similar drug retention to FSI; however, it enhanced the formulation potency, such that tumor growth was suppressed at a 3-fold lower dose compared to an untargeted FSI-Rapa control. This data suggests that ELP-mediated scaffolds are useful tools for generating multifunctional nanomedicines with potential activity in cancer.
Project description:Recombinant Elastin-Like Polypeptides (ELPs) serve as attractive scaffolds for nanoformulations because they can be charge-neutral, water soluble, high molecular weight, monodisperse, biodegradable, and decorated with functional proteins. We recently reported that fusion of the FK-506 binding protein 12 (FKBP) to an ELP nanoparticle (FSI) reduces rapamycin (Rapa) toxicity and enables intravenous (IV) therapy in both a xenograft breast cancer model and a murine autoimmune disease model. Rapa has poor solubility, which leads to variable oral bioavailability or drug precipitation following parenteral administration. While IV administration is routine during chemotherapy, cytostatic molecules like Rapa would require repeat administrations in clinical settings. To optimize FKBP/Rapa for subcutaneous (SC) administration, this manuscript expands upon first-generation FSI nanoparticles (Rh ~ 25 nm) and compares them with two second-generation carriers (FA and FAF) that: i) do not self-assemble; ii) retain a hydrodynamic radius (Rh ~ 7 nm) above the renal filtration cutoff; iii) increase tumor accumulation; and iv) have either one (FA) or two (FAF) drug-binding FKBP domains per ELP protein. Methods: The carriers were compared and evaluated for temperature-concentration phase behavior by UV-Vis spectrophotometry; equilibrium binding and thermodynamics by Isothermal Titration Calorimetry; drug retention and formulation stability by Dialysis and Dynamic Light Scattering; in vitro efficacy using a cell proliferation assay; in vivo efficacy in human MDA-MB-468 orthotopic breast cancer xenografts; downstream target inhibition using western blot; tissue histopathology; and bio-distribution via optical imaging in the orthotopic xenograft mouse model. Results: Named after the two-headed bird in Hindu mythology, the 'Berunda polypeptide' FAF with molecular weight of 97 kDa and particle size, Rh ~ 7 nm demonstrated polypeptide conformation of a soluble hydrated coiled polymer, retained formulation stability for one month post Rapa loading, eliminated toxicity observed with free Rapa after SC administration, suppressed tumor growth, decreased phosphorylation of a downstream target, and increased tumor accumulation in orthotopic breast tumor xenografts. Conclusion: This comprehensive manuscript demonstrates the versatility of recombinant protein-polymers to investigate drug carrier architectures. Furthermore, their facilitation of SC administration of poorly soluble drugs, like Rapa, may enable chronic self-administration in patients.
Project description:Numerous nanocarriers of small molecules depend on either non-specific physical encapsulation or direct covalent linkage. In contrast, this manuscript explores an alternative encapsulation strategy based on high-specificity avidity between a small molecule drug and its cognate protein target fused to the corona of protein polymer nanoparticles. With the new strategy, the drug associates tightly to the carrier and releases slowly, which may decrease toxicity and promote tumor accumulation via the enhanced permeability and retention effect. To test this hypothesis, the drug Rapamycin (Rapa) was selected for its potent anti-proliferative properties, which give it immunosuppressant and anti-tumor activity. Despite its potency, Rapa has low solubility, low oral bioavailability, and rapid systemic clearance, which make it an excellent candidate for nanoparticulate drug delivery. To explore this approach, genetically engineered diblock copolymers were constructed from elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) that assemble small (<100nm) nanoparticles. ELPs are protein polymers of the sequence (Val-Pro-Gly-Xaa-Gly)n, where the identity of Xaa and n determine their assembly properties. Initially, a screening assay for model drug encapsulation in ELP nanoparticles was developed, which showed that Rose Bengal and Rapa have high non-specific encapsulation in the core of ELP nanoparticles with a sequence where Xaa=Ile or Phe. While excellent at entrapping these drugs, their release was relatively fast (2.2h half-life) compared to their intended mean residence time in the human body. Having determined that Rapa can be non-specifically entrapped in the core of ELP nanoparticles, FK506 binding protein 12 (FKBP), which is the cognate protein target of Rapa, was genetically fused to the surface of these nanoparticles (FSI) to enhance their avidity towards Rapa. The fusion of FKBP to these nanoparticles slowed the terminal half-life of drug release to 57.8h. To determine if this class of drug carriers has potential applications in vivo, FSI/Rapa was administered to mice carrying a human breast cancer model (MDA-MB-468). Compared to free drug, FSI encapsulation significantly decreased gross toxicity and enhanced the anti-cancer activity. In conclusion, protein polymer nanoparticles decorated with the cognate receptor of a high potency, low solubility drug (Rapa) efficiently improved drug loading capacity and its release. This approach has applications to the delivery of Rapa and its analogs; furthermore, this strategy has broader applications in the encapsulation, targeting, and release of other potent small molecules.
Project description:Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) has been known as a promising agent for cancer therapy due to its specific apoptosis-inducing effect on tumor cells rather than most normal cells. However, systemically delivered TRAIL suffers from a rapid clearance from the body with an extremely short half-life. Thermally responsive elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) are a promising class of temperature sensitive biopolymers based on the structural motif found in mammalian tropoelastin and retain the advantages of polymeric drug delivery systems. We therefore expressed RGD-TRAIL fused with ELP (RGD-TRAIL-ELP) in E. coli. Purification of RGD-TRAIL-ELP was achieved by the conveniently inverse transition cycling (ITC). The purified RGD-TRAIL-ELP without any chemical conjugation was able to self-assemble into nanoparticle under physiological condition. Non-reducing SDS-PAGE results showed that trimer content of RGD-TRAIL-ELP increased 3.4-fold than RGD-TRAIL. Flow cytometry confirmed that RGD-TRAIL-ELP 3-fold enhanced apoptosis-inducing capacity than RGD-TRAIL. Single intraperitoneal injection of the RGD-TRAIL-ELP nanoparticle induced nearly complete tumor regression in the COLO-205 tumor xenograft model. Histological observation confirmed that RGD-TRAIL-ELP induced significant tumor cell apoptosis without apparent liver toxicity. These findings suggested that a great potential application of the RGD-TRAIL-ELP nanoparticle system as a safe and efficient delivery strategy for cancer therapy.
Project description:The clinical utility of rapamycin (Rapa) is limited by solubility, bioavailability, and side effects. To overcome this, our team recently reported an elastin-like polypeptide (ELP) nanoparticle with high affinity, noncovalent drug binding, and integrin-mediated cellular uptake. Given the scarcity of pharmacology/toxicology studies of ELP-based drug carriers, this article explores safety and efficacy of ELP-Rapa. ELP-Rapa nanoparticles tested negative for hemolysis, did not interfere in plasma coagulation nor in platelet function, and did not activate the complement. Upon incubation with HepG2 cells, ELP-Rapa revealed significant cellular uptake and trafficking to acidic organelles, consistent with lysosomes. Internalized ELP-Rapa nanoparticles increased oxidative stress 4-fold compared to free drug or free ELP controls. However, mice bearing orthotopic hormone receptor positive BT-474 breast tumors, given a high dose (?10-fold above therapeutic dose) of 1 month administration of ELP-Rapa, did not induce hepatotoxicity. On the other hand, tumor growth and mTOR signaling were suppressed without affecting body weight. Nanoparticles assembled using ELP technology appear to be a safe and efficient strategy for delivering Rapa.
Project description:Sjögren's syndrome (SjS) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized initially by lymphocytic infiltration and destruction of exocrine glands, followed by systemic organ damage and B-cell lymphoma. Conventional treatment is based on management of symptoms and there is a shortage of therapies that address the underlying causes of inflammation at source exocrine tissue. The aim of this study was to test a novel protein polymer-based platform consisting of diblock copolymers composed from Elastin-like Polypeptides (ELPs) fused with FKBP12, to deliver a potent immunosuppressant with dose-limiting toxicity, rapamycin (Rapa) also known as Sirolimus, and evaluate its effects on the inflamed lacrimal gland (LG) of non-obese diabetic mouse (NOD), a classic mouse model of SjS. Both soluble and diblock copolymer ELPs were fused to FKBP12 and characterized with respect to purity, hydrodynamic radii, drug entrapment and release. Both formulations showed successful association with Rapa; however, the nanoparticle formulation, FSI, released drug with nearly a 5 fold longer terminal half-life of 62.5h. The strong interaction of FSI nanoparticles with Rapa was confirmed in vivo by a shift in the monoexponential pharmacokinetic profile for free drug to a biexponential profile for the nanoparticle formulation. When acutely administered by injection into NOD mice via the tail vein, this FSI formulation significantly suppressed lymphocytic infiltration in the LG relative to the control group while reducing toxicity. There was also a significant effect on inflammatory and mammalian target of Rapamycin (mTOR) pathway genes in the LG and surprisingly, our nanoparticle formulation was significantly better at decreasing a proposed tear biomarker of SjS, cathepsin S (CATS) compared to free drug. These findings suggest that FSI is a promising tool for delivering Rapa for treatment of SjS in a murine model and may be further explored to meet the unmet medical challenge of SjS.
Project description:Rapamycin (Rapa) is a highly potent drug; however, its clinical potential is limited by poor solubility, bioavailability, and cytotoxicity. To improve Rapa delivery, our team has fused the cognate protein receptor for Rapa, FKBP12, to high molecular weight elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs). One construct, FAF, includes an FKBP domain at each termini of an ELP. In a recent report, FAF/Rapa outperformed a family of related carriers with higher tumor accumulation and efficacy. Despite apparent efficacy, an explanation for how FAF carries Rapa into cells has not been elucidated. This manuscript explores the intracellular fate of FAF in MDA-MB-468, a triple negative (ER-/PR-/HER2-) breast cancer line. Based on a lack of displacement by excess unlabeled FAF, no evidence was found for the involvement of a receptor in cell-surface binding. Cellular association showed no dose-dependent saturation at concentrations up to 100 ?M, which is consistent with uptake through fluid phase endocytosis. FAF does colocalize with dextran, a marker of fluid phase endocytosis. Upon internalization, both FAF and dextran target low pH intracellular compartments similarly. Despite likely exposure to lysosomal pH and proteolytic activity, intracellular FAF is eliminated from cells with a relatively long half-life of 17.7 and 19.0 h by confocal microscopy and SDS-PAGE respectively. A split luciferase reporter assay demonstrated that FAF delays the cytosolic access of Rapa in comparison to free drug by 30 min. A specific macropinocytosis inhibitor, amiloride, completely inhibits the cytosolic delivery of Rapa from FAF. Each of these results are consistent with macropinocytosis as the mechanism of cellular uptake necessary for the hand-off of Rapa from FKBP-based drug carriers like FAF to endogenous FKBP12 in the cytosol.
Project description:Elastin-Like Polypeptides (ELP) are environmentally responsive protein polymers which are easy to engineer and biocompatible, making them ideal candidates as drug carriers. Our team has recently utilized ELPs fused to FKBP12 to carry Rapamycin (Rapa), a potent immunosuppressant. Through high affinity binding to Rapa, FKBP carriers can yield beneficial therapeutic effects and reduce the off-site toxicity of Rapa. Since ICAM-1 is significantly elevated at sites of inflammation in diverse diseases, we hypothesized that a molecularly targeted ELP carrier capable of binding ICAM-1 might have advantageous properties. Here we report on the design, characterization, pharmacokinetics, and biodistribution of a new ICAM-1-targeted ELP Rapa carrier (IBPAF) and its preliminary characterization in a murine model exhibiting elevated ICAM-1. Lacrimal glands (LG) of male NOD mice, a disease model recapitulating the autoimmune dacryoadenitis seen in Sjögren's Syndrome patients, were analyzed to confirm that ICAM-1 was significantly elevated in the LG relative to control male BALB/c mice (3.5-fold, p < 0.05, n = 6). In vitro studies showed that IBPAF had significantly higher binding to TNF-?-stimulated bEnd.3 cells which overexpress surface ICAM-1, relative to nontargeted control ELP (AF)(4.0-fold, p < 0.05). A pharmacokinetics study in male NOD mice showed no significant differences between AF and IBPAF for plasma half-life, clearance, and volume of distribution. However, both constructs maintained a higher level of Rapa in systemic circulation compared to free Rapa. Interestingly, in the male NOD mouse, the accumulation of IBPAF was significantly higher in homogenized LG extracts compared to AF at 2 h (8.6 ± 6.6% versus 1.3 ± 1.3%, respectively, n = 5, p < 0.05). This accumulation was transient with no differences detected at 8 or 24 h. This study describes the first ICAM-1 targeted protein-polymer carrier for Rapa that specifically binds to ICAM-1 in vitro and accumulates in ICAM-1 overexpressing tissue in vivo, which may be useful for molecular targeting in diverse inflammatory diseases where ICAM-1 is elevated.
Project description:Recombinant elastin-like protein (ELP) polymers display several favorable characteristics for tissue repair and replacement as well as drug delivery applications. However, these materials are derived from peptide sequences that do not lend themselves to cell adhesion, migration, or proliferation. This report describes the chemoselective ligation of peptide linkers bearing the bioactive RGD sequence to the surface of ELP hydrogels. Initially, cystamine is conjugated to ELP, followed by the temperature-driven formation of elastomeric ELP hydrogels. Cystamine reduction produces reactive thiols that are coupled to the RGD peptide linker via a terminal maleimide group. Investigations into the behavior of endothelial cells and mesenchymal stem cells on the RGD-modified ELP hydrogel surface reveal significantly enhanced attachment, spreading, migration and proliferation. Attached endothelial cells display a quiescent phenotype.
Project description:Elastin-like polypeptide (ELP)-based drug delivery has been utilized for various applications including cancer therapies for many years. Genetic incorporation of internalization ligands and cell-targeting peptides along with ELP polymer enhanced tumor accumulation and retention time as well as stability and activities of the drug conjugates. Herein, we described a unique delivery system comprised of genetically engineered ELP incorporated with multiple copies of IL-4 receptor targeting peptide (AP1) periodically and proapoptotic peptide (KLAKLAK)2 referred to as AP1-ELP-KLAK. It triggered thermal-responsive self-assembly into a nanoparticle-like structure at physiological body temperature and stabilized its helical conformation, which is critical for its membrane-disrupting activities. Increased IL-4 receptor specific cellular internalization was associated with the enhanced cytotoxic effect of (KLAKLAK)2 peptide. Additionally, multivalent presentation of targeting ligands by AP1-ELP-KLAK significantly enhanced intratumoral localization and prolonged the retention time compared to ELP-KLAK, non-targeted control. Systemic administration of AP1-ELP-KLAK significantly inhibited tumor growth by provoking cell apoptosis in various tumor xenograft models without any specific organ toxicity. Thus, our newly designed AP1-ELP-KLAK polymer nanoparticle is a promising candidate for effective cancer therapy and due to the simple preparative procedures of ELPs, this platform can be used as a good carrier for tumor-specific delivery of other therapeutics.
Project description:Various types of nanoparticles have been proposed for targeted drug delivering, imaging, and tracking of therapeutic agents. However, highly biocompatible nanoparticles with structure-induced fluorescence and capability to conjugate with biomarkers and drugs remain lacking. This research proposes and synthesizes fluorescent nanoparticles (f-PNPs) assembled by cyclic peptides to combine imaging and drug delivering for esophageal cancer (EC). To achieve tumor targeting, f-PNPs are first conjugated with RGD moieties to selectively target EC cells via ?<sub>v</sub>?<sub>3</sub> integrin; the nanoparticles are then embedded with epirubicin (EPI). Cell viability assays and analysis of tissue histology reveal that EPI-loaded RGD-f-PNPs (RGD-f-PNPs/EPI) led to significantly reduced cardiotoxicity and improved anti-tumor activity compared to EPI alone. Moreover, the drug delivery to tumor sites and therapeutic responses could be monitored with near-infrared fluorescence using RGD-f-PNPs/EPI. This unique nanoparticle system may lead to potential approaches for bioorganic fluorescence-based delivering, imaging, and drug release tracking.