Effects of interferon-gamma liposomes targeted to platelet-derived growth factor receptor-beta on hepatic fibrosis in rats

J Control Release. 2012 Apr 30;159(2):261-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2011.12.023. Epub 2011 Dec 28.


No drugs have been approved clinically for the therapy of hepatic fibrosis. Though interferon-γ (IFN-γ) is a highly effective anti-fibrotic agent in vitro and in some animal models in vivo, its anti-fibrotic potential in clinical trials has been disappointing, due to unwanted off-target effects and a short half-life period which results in poor efficacy. The aims of this study are to develop a new targeted drug delivery system to selectively deliver IFN-γ to hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) and to investigate whether it will improve the anti-fibrotic effect of IFN-γ and reduce its side effects in fibrotic livers. Sterically stable liposomes (SSLs) were modified by cyclic peptides (pPB) with a specific affinity for platelet-derived growth factor receptor-β (PDGFR-β), and then IFN-γ was encapsulated in the targeted liposomes (pPB-SSL-IFN-γ). In vitro, pPB-SSL was found to be taken up and internalized by cultured activated HSCs. The binding of FITC-labeled pPB-SSL to activated HSCs was in a time-dependent and concentration-dependent manner, which could be inhibited by excess unlabelled pPB-SSL, PDGF-BB, suramin or monensin. The inhibitory effect of pPB-SSL-IFN-γ on the proliferation of activated HSCs was respectively 7.24-fold and 2.95-fold higher than that of free IFN-γ and IFN-γ encapsulated in untargeted SSLs. In healthy rats, the tissue distribution, living-body tracing image analyses and pharmacokinetics study showed that pPB-SSL-IFN-γ accumulated mainly in the livers and had a longer half-life than free IFN-γ (3.98±0.52h vs. 0.21±0.03h). Furthermore, in rats with hepatic fibrosis induced by thioacetamide injection, FITC-labeled pPB-SSL was found to predominantly localize in activated HSCs by immunofluorescent double staining for FITC and albumin or α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA). The enhanced anti-fibrotic effect of pPB-SSL-IFN-γ treatnment was indicated by significant decreases in the histologic Ishak stage, collagen I-staining positive areas, and α-SMA expression levels in fibrotic livers. In addition, pPB-SSL-IFN-γ treatment improved the leukopenia caused by low- and high-dosage free IFN-γ treatments. In conclusion, IFN-γ encapsulated in pPB-SSL had an extended circulation half-life and was selectively delivered to activated HSCs, which enhanced the anti-fibrotic effect of IFN-γ and reduced its side-effects in rats with hepatic fibrosis. Thus, pPB-SSL-IFN-γ may be an effective agent for the therapy of hepatic fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry*
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells / drug effects
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells / immunology
  • Interferon-gamma / administration & dosage*
  • Interferon-gamma / adverse effects
  • Interferon-gamma / pharmacokinetics
  • Interferon-gamma / therapeutic use*
  • Liposomes
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Experimental / immunology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Experimental / metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Experimental / pathology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Peptides, Cyclic / chemistry*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor beta / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Drug Carriers
  • Liposomes
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor beta