Folate Receptor-Targeted and GSH-Responsive Carboxymethyl Chitosan Nanoparticles Containing Covalently Entrapped 6-Mercaptopurine for Enhanced Intracellular Drug Delivery in Leukemia

Mar Drugs. 2018 Nov 8;16(11):439. doi: 10.3390/md16110439.


For enhanced intracellular accumulation of 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) in leukemia, a folate receptor-targeted and glutathione (GSH)-responsive polymeric prodrug nanoparticle was made. The nanoparticles were prepared by conjugating 6-MP to carboxymethyl chitosan via a GSH-sensitive carbonyl vinyl sulfide linkage, ultrasonic self-assembly and surface decoration with folate. The TEM graphs shows that the as-synthesized nanoparticles are spherical with a particle size of 170~220 nm. In vitro drug release of nanoparticles demonstrated acceptable stability in PBS containing 20 μM GSH at pH 7.4. However, the cumulative drug release rate of the samples containing 20 mM and 10 mM GSH medium reached 78.9% and 64.8%, respectively, in pH 5.0 at 20 h. This indicated that this nano-sized system is highly sensitive to GSH. The inhibition ratio of folate-modified nanoparticles compared to unmodified nanoparticles was higher in cancer cells (human promyelocytic leukemia cells, HL-60) while their cytotoxicity was lower in normal cells (mouse fibroblast cell lines, L929). Furthermore, in vitro cancer cell incubation studies confirmed that folate-modified nanoparticles therapeutics were significantly more effective than unmodified nanoparticles therapeutics. Our results suggest that folate receptor-targeting and GSH-stimulation can significantly elevate tumour intracellular drug release. Therefore, folate-modified nanoparticles containing chemoradiotherapy is a potential treatment for leukemia therapy.

Keywords: GSH-sensitive; anticancer drug; chemotherapy; chitosan; drug release; folate receptor; leukemia; nanoparticles; surface modification; tumor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / administration & dosage*
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use
  • Chemoradiotherapy / methods
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry*
  • Drug Liberation
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Drug Stability
  • Fibroblasts
  • Folate Receptors, GPI-Anchored / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Folate Receptors, GPI-Anchored / metabolism
  • Folic Acid / metabolism
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Glutathione / pharmacology
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / therapy*
  • Mercaptopurine / administration & dosage*
  • Mercaptopurine / therapeutic use
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Nanoparticles / ultrastructure


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Drug Carriers
  • Folate Receptors, GPI-Anchored
  • Folic Acid
  • Mercaptopurine
  • Glutathione