The Weak Link: Optimization of the Ligand-Nanoparticle Interface To Enhance Cancer Cell Targeting by Polymer Micelles.
Many promising targeting ligands are hydrophobic peptides, and these ligands often show limited accessibility to receptors, resulting in suboptimal targeting. A systematic study to elucidate the rules for the design of linkers that optimize their presentation on nanoparticles has not been carried out to date. In this study, we recombinantly synthesized an elastin-like polypeptide diblock copolymer (ELPBC) that self-assembles into monodisperse micelles. AHNP and EC1, two hydrophobic ErbB2-targeted peptide ligands, were incorporated at the C-terminus of the ELPBC with an intervening peptide linker. We tested more than 20 designs of peptide linkers, where the linker could be precisely engineered at the gene level to systematically investigate the molecular parameters-sequence, length, and charge-of the peptide linker that optimally assist ligands in targeting the ErbB2 receptor on cancer cells. We found that peptide linkers with a minimal length of 12 hydrophilic amino acids and an overall cationic charge-and that impart a zeta potential of the micelle that is close to neutral-were necessary to enhance the uptake of peptide-modified ELPBC micelles by cancer cells that overexpress the ErbB2 receptor. This work advances our understanding of the optimal presentation of hydrophobic ligands by nanoparticles and suggests design rules for peptide linkers for targeted delivery by polymer micelles, an emerging class of nanoparticle carriers for drugs and imaging agents.
Wang, J; Dzuricky, M; Chilkoti, A
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