Tetraspecific ligand for tumor-targeted delivery of nanomaterials.

PMID 24786763


The polygenetic nature of most cancers emphasizes the necessity of cancer therapies that target multiple essential signaling pathways. However, there is a significant paucity of targeting ligands with multi-specificities for targeted delivery of biomaterials. To address this unmet need, we generated a tetraspecific targeting ligand that recognizes four different cancer biomarkers, including VEGFR2, αvβ3 integrin, EGFR, and HER2 receptors, which have been implicated in numerous malignant tumors. The tetraspecific targeting ligand was constructed by sequentially connecting four targeting ligand subunits via flexible linkers, yielding a fusion protein that can be highly expressed in Escherichia coli and readily purified to near homogeneity. Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR), Bio-Layer Interferometry (BLI) studies and extensive cellular binding analyses indicated that all the targeting ligand subunits in the tetraspecific fusion protein recognized their target receptors proximately to the corresponding monospecific ligands. The resulting tetraspecific targeting ligand was applied for the delivery of nanomaterials such as gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) for targeted hyperthermic killing of various cancer cell lines with biomarkers of interest expressed. We demonstrate that the tetraspecific ligand can be facilely introduced on the surface of AuNPs and efficient target-dependent killing of cancer cells can be achieved only when the AuNPs are conjugated with the tetraspecific ligand. Significantly, the tetraspecific ligand simultaneously interacts with more than one receptors, such as EGFR and HER2 receptors, when they are expressed on the surface of the same cell, as demonstrated by inxa0vitro binding assays and cell binding analyses. Our results demonstrate that the tetraspecific ligand, through multivalency and synergistic binding, can be readily used to generate various 'smart' biomaterials with greatly broadened tumor targeting range for simultaneous targeting of multiple signaling pathways on many different cancer types.

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