Protein cage nanoparticles bearing the LyP-1 peptide for enhanced imaging of macrophage-rich vascular lesions

ACS Nano. 2011 Apr 26;5(4):2493-502. doi: 10.1021/nn102863y. Epub 2011 Mar 21.


Cage-like protein nanoparticles are promising platforms for cell- and tissue-specific targeted delivery of imaging and therapeutic agents. Here, we have successfully modified the 12 nm small heat shock protein from Methanococcus jannaschii (MjHsp) to detect atherosclerotic plaque lesions in a mouse model system. As macrophages are centrally involved in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis, targeted imaging of macrophages is valuable to assess the biologic status of the blood vessel wall. LyP-1, a nine residue peptide, has been shown to target tumor-associated macrophages. Thus, LyP-1 was genetically incorporated onto the exterior surface of MjHsp, while a fluorescent molecule (Cy5.5) was conjugated on the interior cavity. This bioengineered protein cage, LyP-Hsp, exhibited enhanced affinity to macrophage in vitro. Furthermore, in vivo injection of LyP-Hsp allowed visualization of macrophage-rich murine carotid lesions by in situ and ex vivo fluorescence imaging. These results demonstrate the potential of LyP-1-conjugated protein cages as nanoscale platforms for delivery of imaging agents for the diagnosis of atherosclerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatography, Gel
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Macrophages / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Models, Animal
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry*
  • Peptides, Cyclic / chemistry*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Vascular Diseases / pathology*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • LyP-1 protein, mouse
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • Proteins