Chitosan-based delivery systems for protein therapeutics and antigens

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2010 Jan 31;62(1):59-82. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2009.11.009. Epub 2009 Nov 16.


Therapeutic peptides/proteins and protein-based antigens are chemically and structurally labile compounds, which are almost exclusively administered by parenteral injections. Recently, non-invasive mucosal routes have attracted interest for administration of these biotherapeutics. Chitosan-based delivery systems enhance the absorption and/or cellular uptake of peptides/proteins across mucosal sites and have immunoadjuvant properties. Chitosan is a mucoadhesive polysaccharide capable of opening the tight junctions between epithelial cells and it has functional groups for chemical modifications, which has resulted in a large variety of chitosan derivatives with tunable properties for the aimed applications. This review provides an overview of chitosan-based polymers for preparation of both therapeutic peptides/protein and antigen formulations. The physicochemical properties of these carrier systems as well as their applications in protein and antigen delivery through parenteral and mucosal (particularly nasal and pulmonary) administrations are summarized and discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / administration & dosage*
  • Antigens / chemistry
  • Chitosan / administration & dosage*
  • Chitosan / chemistry
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Humans
  • Nasal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Nasal Mucosa / immunology
  • Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Respiratory Mucosa / drug effects
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism


  • Antigens
  • Proteins
  • Chitosan