A brain delivery probe was prepared by covalently conjugating lactoferrin (Lf) to a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-coated Fe(3)O(4) nanoparticle in order to facilitate the transport of the nanoparticles across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) by receptor-mediated transcytosis via the Lf receptor present on cerebral endothelial cells. The efficacy of the Fe(3)O(4)-Lf conjugate to cross the BBB was evaluated in vitro using a cell culture model for the blood-brain barrier as well as in vivo in SD rats. For an in vitro experiment, a well-established porcine BBB model was used based on the primary culture of cerebral capillary endothelial cells grown on filter supports, thus allowing one to follow the transfer of nanoparticles from the apical (blood) to the basolateral (brain) side. For in vivo experiments, SD rats were used as animal model to detect the passage of the nanoparticles through the BBB by MRI techniques. The results of both in vitro and in vivo experiments revealed that the Fe(3)O(4)-Lf probe exhibited an enhanced ability to cross the BBB in comparison to the PEG-coated Fe(3)O(4) nanoparticles and further suggested that the Lf-receptor-mediated transcytosis was an effective measure for delivering the nanoparticles across the BBB.