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Direct Fluorescence Monitoring of the Delivery and Cellular Uptake of a Cancer-Targeted RGD Peptide-Appended Naphthalimide Theragnostic Prodrug

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journal contribution
posted on 20.02.2016 by Min Hee Lee, Jin Young Kim, Ji Hye Han, Sankarprasad Bhuniya, Jonathan L. Sessler, Chulhun Kang, Jong Seung Kim
Presented here is a multicomponent synthetic strategy that allows for the direct, fluorescence-based monitoring of the targeted cellular uptake and release of a conjugated therapeutic agent. Specifically, we report here the design, synthesis, spectroscopic characterization, and preliminary in vitro biological evaluation of a RGD peptide-appended naphthalimide pro-CPT (compound 1). Compound 1 is a multifunctional molecule composed of a disulfide bond as a cleavable linker, a naphthalimide moiety as a fluorescent reporter, an RGD cyclic peptide as a cancer-targeting unit, and camptothecin (CPT) as a model active agent. Upon reaction with free thiols in aqueous media at pH 7.4, disulfide cleavage occurs. This leads to release of the free CPT active agent, as well as the production of a red-shifted fluorescence emission (λmax = 535 nm). Confocal microscopic experiments reveal that 1 is preferentially taken up by U87 cells over C6 cells. On the basis of competition experiments involving okadaic acid, an inhibitor of endocytosis, it is concluded that uptake takes place via RGD-dependent endocytosis mechanisms. In U87 cells, the active CPT payload is released within the endoplasmic reticulum, as inferred from fluorescence-based colocalization studies using a known endoplasmic reticulum-selective dye. The present drug delivery system (DDS) could represent a new approach to so-called theragnostic agent development, wherein both a therapeutic effect and drug uptake-related imaging information are produced and can be readily monitored at the subcellular level. In due course, the strategy embodied in conjugate 1 could allow for more precise monitoring of dosage levels, as well as an improved understanding of cellular uptake and release mechanisms.