Accelerated clearance of PEGylated liposomes in rats after repeated injections

J Control Release. 2003 Feb 14;88(1):35-42. doi: 10.1016/s0168-3659(02)00462-5.


Polyethylene glycol-modified liposomes (PEGylated liposomes) represent promising carrier systems for therapeutic agents. Herein, we report on a study of the effect of repeated injection of PEGylated liposomes on their pharmacokinetics in rats. The first dose resulted in a reduction in the circulation time and an increase in hepatic accumulation of the second dose in a time-interval of injection-dependent manner. No significant increases in the number of Kupffer cells were detectable, although the liver most likely played an important role in the accelerated clearance. Interestingly, the acceleration in clearance became less pronounced, when the third dose was injected at 4, 7 or 14 days after the second injection (the second dose was given 5 weeks after the first injection). An accelerated clearance was evoked in normal rats by the transfusion of serum from rats that had received PEGylated liposomes 5 days earlier, indicating that humoral serum factor(s) are also involved in causing the accelerated clearance. A complement consumption assay indicated that the complement system is not the factor. In summary, multiple injections of PEGylated liposomes clearly altered their pharmacokinetic behavior in rats. It is likely that cellular immunity (Kupffer cells) and humoral immunity are required to cause the phenomenon. The results reported here have a considerable impact in and important implications on the clinical application, design and engineering of PEGylated liposomes for use in repeated intravenous administration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Kupffer Cells / drug effects
  • Liposomes / administration & dosage
  • Liposomes / pharmacokinetics*
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Polyethylene Glycols / administration & dosage
  • Polyethylene Glycols / pharmacokinetics*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / drug effects
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Liposomes
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Polyethylene Glycols