Tumor cell targeting of transferrin-PEG-TNF-alpha conjugate via a receptor-mediated delivery system: design, synthesis, and biological evaluation.Bioconjug Chem. 2007 Jan-Feb; 18(1):41-9.BC
PEGylation is a procedure of growing interest for enhancing the therapeutic and biotechnological potential of peptides and proteins. Transferrin (Tf) has been proposed to be useful for targeting cancer cells. The aim of this study was to modify PEGylated recombinant human tumor necrosis factor alpha (PEG-TNF-alpha) with Tf to form Tf-PEG-TNF-alpha conjugates, which would maintain the advantages of PEGylation and also achieve the function of active targeting to tumor cells. In PEGylation reactions with 5-, 20-, 40-, and 60-fold molar excess of 3.4 kDa N-hydroxysuccinimide-PEG-maleimide (PT1, PT2, PT3, and PT4, respectively), PEG-TNF-alpha conjugates with different PEG chains were synthesized. A perfusion chromatography technique using a cation-exchange column was introduced to purify PEG-TNF-alpha conjugates. PT4 with about five PEG chains was selected as a lead candidate due to highest extent of PEGylation and maximum reaction yield. Thiolated Tf was conjugated to the maleimide group at the distal end of the PEG chains on the PEG-TNF-alpha conjugates, with the resulting Tf-PEG-TNF-alpha conjugates after purification containing approximately one Tf ligand on one TNF-alpha molecule. The conjugate of Tf and PT4 (TPT4) was selected to assess the specificity and affinity to transferrin receptor (TfR) on two kinds of tumor cells, K562 and KB. Both the receptor binding assays and the competition experiments were performed using radioligand binding analysis. The results demonstrated that TPT4 as well as Tf bound specifically to the TfR on the tumor cell surface and the affinity of the conjugate to TfR was similar to that of native Tf. In contrast, PEG-TNF-alpha demonstrated no specificity. The biodistribution and antitumor effects were investigated in S-180 tumor-bearing mice. It was found that TPT4 could markedly alter in vivo behavioral characteristics of TNF-alpha. Compared with TNF-alpha and PT4, extravasated TPT4 in tumor tissues exhibited a significantly delayed blood clearance and the highest intratumoral TNF-alpha levels. Furthermore, the inhibitory rate of tumor of TPT4 enhanced 5.3- and 1.8-fold over that of TNF-alpha and PT4, indicating that TPT4 exhibited the highest antitumor activity. These results suggested that Tf-PEG-TNF-alpha was a useful long circulating conjugate with the capabilities of specific receptor binding resulting in enhanced antitumor activity of TNF-alpha.