Development of human hepatocellular carcinoma cell-targeted protein cages

Bioconjug Chem. 2012 Jul 18;23(7):1494-501. doi: 10.1021/bc300015f. Epub 2012 Jun 18.


We described herein a human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell-targeted protein cage for which the HCC-binding peptide termed SP94 was modified at the surface of a naturally occurred heat shock protein (Hsp) cage. Six types of HCC-targeted Hsp cages were chemically synthesized using two types of heterobifunctional linker (SM(PEG)(n)) with different lengths and two types of SP94 peptide, which contained a unique Cys residue at the N- or C-terminus of the peptide. These Hsp cages were characterized using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-ToF MS) analyses, sodium dodecylsulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) analyses, and dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurement. Fluorescence microscopic observations revealed that all the engineered protein cages bind selectively to HCC cells but not to the other cell lines tested (including normal liver cell). Moreover, the number of SP94 peptides on Hsp cages, conjugation site of SP94 peptide, and linker length between a Hsp cage and a SP94 peptide had important effects upon the binding of engineered Hsp cages to HCC cells. An engineered Hsp cage conjugated to the N-terminus of SP94 peptide via a longer linker molecule and containing high SP94 peptide levels showed greater binding toward HCC cells. Surprisingly, through optimization of these three factors, up to 10-fold greater affinity toward HCC cells was achieved. These results are critically important not only for the development of HCC cell-targeting devices using SP94 peptide, but also to create other cell-targeting materials that utilize other peptide ligands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / chemistry
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / pharmacokinetics
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Molecular Structure
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Peptides / pharmacokinetics
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Surface Properties


  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Polyethylene Glycols