A novel Granzyme B nanoparticle delivery system simulates immune cell functions for suppression of solid tumors

Theranostics. 2019 Oct 14;9(25):7616-7627. doi: 10.7150/thno.35900. eCollection 2019.


Cell-based immunotherapy for the treatment of hematologic malignancies, such as leukemia and lymphoma, has seen much success and played an increasingly important role in clinical studies. Nevertheless, the efficacy of immunotherapy in solid tumors still needs improvements due to the immunosuppressive properties of tumor cells and the microenvironment. To overcome these limitations, we prepared a novel tumor-targeting delivery system based on the underlying mechanism of immune-targeted cell death that encapsulated granzyme B protein within a porous polymeric nanocapsule. Methods: A cell-penetrating peptide TAT was attached onto granzyme B (GrB) to enhance its transmembrane transport efficiency and potency to induce cell apoptosis. The endocytosis and internalization pathways of GrB-TAT (GrB-T) were analyzed in comparison with perforin by confocal microscopy and flow cytometry. Furthermore, the positively charged GrB-T was wrapped into nanoparticles by p-2-methacryloyloxy ethyl phosphorylcholine (PMPC)-modified HA (hyaluronic acid). The nanoparticles (called TCiGNPs) were characterized in terms of zeta potential and by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The in vitro anti-tumor effects of GrB-T were examined by cell apoptosis assay and Western blotting analysis. The in vivo anti-tumor therapeutic efficacy of TCiGNPs was evaluated in a mouse tumor model. Results: The TAT peptide could play a role similar to perforin to mediate direct transmembrane transfer of GrB and improve GrB-induced cell apoptosis. The TCiGNPs were successfully synthesized and accumulated in the solid tumor through enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect. In the tumor microenvironment, TCiGNPs could be degraded by hyaluronidase and triggered the release of GrB-T. The TAT peptide enabled the translocation of GrB across the plasma membrane to induce tumor cell apoptosis in vivo.Conclusion: We successfully developed a granzyme B delivery system with a GrB-T core and a PMPC/HA shell that simulated CTL/NK cell-mediated cancer immunotherapy mechanism. The GrB delivery system holds great promise for cancer treatment analogous to the CTL/NK cell-induced immunotherapy.

Keywords: Granzyme B delivery; biomimetics; nanoparticles; tumor therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides / administration & dosage
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods
  • Granzymes / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Killer Cells, Natural / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Perforin / administration & dosage
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / drug effects
  • Tumor Microenvironment / drug effects


  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides
  • Perforin
  • Granzymes