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Modulating Lipoprotein Transcellular Transport and Atherosclerotic Plaque Formation in ApoE–/– Mice via Nanoformulated Lipid–Methotrexate Conjugates

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journal contribution
posted on 14.08.2020, 08:35 by Valentina Di Francesco, Danila Gurgone, Roberto Palomba, Miguel Filipe Moreira Marques Ferreira, Tiziano Catelani, Antonio Cervadoro, Pasquale Maffia, Paolo Decuzzi
Macrophage inflammation and maturation into foam cells, following the engulfment of oxidized low-density lipoproteins (oxLDL), are major hallmarks in the onset and progression of atherosclerosis. Yet, chronic treatments with anti-inflammatory agents, such as methotrexate (MTX), failed to modulate disease progression, possibly for the limited drug bioavailability and plaque deposition. Here, MTX–lipid conjugates, based on 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (DSPE), were integrated in the structure of spherical polymeric nanoparticles (MTX-SPNs) or intercalated in the lipid bilayer of liposomes (MTX-LIP). Although, both nanoparticles were colloidally stable with an average diameter of ∼200 nm, MTX-LIP exhibited a higher encapsulation efficiency (>70%) and slower release rate (∼50% at 10 h) compared to MTX-SPN. In primary bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDMs), MTX-LIP modulated the transcellular transport of oxLDL more efficiently than free MTX mostly by inducing a 2-fold overexpression of ABCA1 (regulating oxLDL efflux), while the effect on CD36 and SRA-1 (regulating oxLDL influx) was minimal. Furthermore, in BMDMs, MTX-LIP showed a stronger anti-inflammatory activity than free MTX, reducing the expression of IL-1β by 3-fold, IL-6 by 2-fold, and also moderately of TNF-α. In 28 days high-fat-diet-fed apoE–/– mice, MTX-LIP reduced the mean plaque area by 2-fold and the hematic amounts of RANTES by half as compared to free MTX. These results would suggest that the nanoenhanced delivery to vascular plaques of the anti-inflammatory DSPE-MTX conjugate could effectively modulate the disease progression by halting monocytes’ maturation and recruitment already at the onset of atherosclerosis.