By the appropriate selection of functional peptides and proper accommodation sites, we have generated a set of multifunctional proteins that combine selectivity for CXCR4+ cell binding and relevant endosomal escape capabilities linked to the viral peptide HA2. In particular, the construct T22-GFP-HA2-H6 forms nanoparticles that upon administration in mouse models of human, CXCR4+ colorectal cancer, accumulates in primary tumor at levels significantly higher than the parental T22-GFP-H6 HA2-lacking version. The in vivo application of a CXCR4 antagonist has confirmed the prevalence of the CXCR4+ tumor tissue selectivity over unspecific cell penetration, upon systemic administration of the material. Such specificity is combined with improved endosomal escape, what overall results in a precise and highly efficient tumor biodistribution. These data strongly support the functional recruitment as a convenient approach to generate protein materials for clinical applications. More precisely, they also support the unexpected concept that enhancing the unspecific membrane activity of a protein material does not necessarily compromise, but it can even improve, the selective cell targeting offered by an accompanying functional module. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: We have shown here that the combination of cell-penetrating and tumor cell-targeting peptides dramatically enhances precise tumor accumulation of protein-only nanoparticles intended for selective drug delivery, in mouse models of human colorectal cancer. This fact is a step forward for the rational design of multifunctional protein nanomaterials for improved cancer therapies.
Keywords: Active targeting; CXCR4; Colorectal cancer; Fusogenic peptide; Protein materials; Self-assembling.
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