Folate-Decorated Amphiphilic Cyclodextrins as Cell-Targeted Nanophototherapeutics

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The group of Prof. Mazzaglia published on a  ternary nanoassembly (SAP) composed of nonionic amphiphilic β-cyclodextrins (amphiphilic CD) incorporating pheophorbide (Pheo) as a phototherapeutic and an adamantanyl-folic acid conjugate (Ada-FA) to target tumor cells overexpressing α-folate receptor (FR-α(+)).

Dynamic light scattering and ζ-potential pointed out the presence of nanoassemblies bearing a negative surface charge (ζ = −51 mV). Morphology of SAP was investigated by atomic force microscopy and microphotoluminescence, indicating the presence of highly emissive near-spherical assemblies of about 280 nm in size. Complementary spectroscopic techniques such as ROESY-NMR, UV/vis and steady-state fluorescence revealed that the folic acid protrudes out of amphiphilic CD rims, prone for recognition with FR-α. Pheo was strongly loaded in the nanoassembly mostly in monomeric form, thus generating singlet oxygen (1O2) and consequentely showing phototherapeutic action.

SAP remained stable until 2 weeks in aqueous solutions. Stability studies in biologically relevant media pointed out the ability of SAP to interact with serum proteins by means of the oligoethylenglycole fringe, without destabilization. Release experiments demonstrated the sustained release of Pheo from SAP in environments mimiking physiological conditions (∼20% within 1 week), plausibly suggesting low Pheo leaking and high integrity of the assembly within 24 h, time spent on average to reach the target sites.

Cellular uptake of SAP was confirmed by confocal microscopy, pointing out that SAP was internalized into the tumoral cells expressing FR-α more efficiently than SP. SAP showed improved phototoxicity in human breast MCF-7 cancer cells FR-α(+) (IC50 = 270 nM) with respect to human prostate carcinoma PC3 cells (IC50 = 700 nM) that express a low level of that receptor (FR-α(−)). Finally, an improved phototoxicity in FR-α(+) MCF-7 cells (IC50 = 270 nM) was assessed after treatment with SAP vs SP (IC50 = 600 nM) which was designed without Ada-FA as a targeting unit.


Zagami R, Rapozzi V, Piperno A, Scala A, Triolo C, Trapani M, Xodo LE, Monsù Scolaro L, Mazzaglia A. Folate-Decorated Amphiphilic Cyclodextrins as Cell-Targeted Nanophototherapeutics. Biomacromolecules. 2019 Jul 8; 20(7):2530-2544.
doi: 10.1021/acs.biomac.9b00306. Epub 2019 Jun 25.

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