Blood-brain barrier drug delivery of IgG fusion proteins with a transferrin receptor monoclonal antibody

Expert Opin Drug Deliv. 2015 Feb;12(2):207-22. doi: 10.1517/17425247.2014.952627. Epub 2014 Aug 20.


Introduction: Biologic drugs are large molecules that do not cross the blood- brain barrier (BBB). Brain penetration is possible following the re-engineering of the biologic drug as an IgG fusion protein. The IgG domain is a MAb against an endogenous BBB receptor such as the transferrin receptor (TfR). The TfRMAb acts as a molecular Trojan horse to ferry the fused biologic drug into the brain via receptor-mediated transport on the endogenous BBB TfR.

Areas covered: This review discusses TfR isoforms, models of BBB transport of transferrin and TfRMAbs, and the genetic engineering of TfRMAb fusion proteins, including BBB penetrating IgG-neurotrophins, IgG-decoy receptors, IgG-lysosomal enzyme therapeutics and IgG-avidin fusion proteins, as well as BBB transport of bispecific antibodies formed by fusion of a therapeutic antibody to a TfRMAb targeting antibody. Also discussed are quantitative aspects of the plasma pharmacokinetics and brain uptake of TfRMAb fusion proteins, as compared to the brain uptake of small molecules, and therapeutic applications of TfRMAb fusion proteins in mouse models of neural disease, including Parkinson's disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and lysosomal storage disorders. The review covers the engineering of TfRMAb-avidin fusion proteins for BBB targeted delivery of biotinylated peptide radiopharmaceuticals, low-affinity TfRMAb Trojan horses and the safety pharmacology of chronic administration of TfRMAb fusion proteins.

Expert opinion: The BBB delivery of biologic drugs is possible following re-engineering as a fusion protein with a molecular Trojan horse such as a TfRMAb. The efficacy of this technology will be determined by the outcome of future clinical trials.

Keywords: biologic drugs; blood–brain barrier; fusion proteins; monoclonal antibody; transferrin receptor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Avidin / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Mice
  • Peptides / administration & dosage
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / administration & dosage
  • Receptors, Transferrin / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Peptides
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Avidin