Comparison of polypeptides that bind the transferrin receptor for targeting gold nanocarriers

Mcquaid, Conor; Halsey, Andrea; Dubois, Maeva; Romero, Ignacio A and Male, David (2021). Comparison of polypeptides that bind the transferrin receptor for targeting gold nanocarriers. PLoS ONE, 16(6), article no. e0252341.



The ability to target therapeutic agents to specific tissues is an important element in the development of new disease treatments. The transferrin receptor (TfR) is one potential target for drug delivery, as it expressed on many dividing cells and on brain endothelium, the key cellular component of the blood-brain barrier. The aim of this study was to compare a set of new and previously-described polypeptides for their ability to bind to brain endothelium, and investigate their potential for targeting therapeutic agents to the CNS. Six polypeptides were ranked for their rate of endocytosis by the human brain endothelial cell line hCMEC/D3 and the murine line bEnd.3. One linear polypeptide and two cyclic polypeptides showed high rates of uptake. These peptides were investigated to determine whether serum components, including transferrin itself affected uptake by the endothelium. One of the cyclic peptides was strongly inhibited by transferrin and the other cyclic peptide weakly inhibited. As proof of principle the linear peptide was attached to 2nm glucose coated gold-nanoparticles, and the rate of uptake of the nanoparticles measured in a hydrogel model of the blood-brain barrier. Attachment of the TfR-targeting polypeptide significantly increased the rates of endocytosis by brain endothelium and increased movement of nanoparticles across the cells.

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