Ligand Distribution and Lipid Phase Behavior in Phospholipid-Coated Microbubbles and Monolayers

Langmuir. 2020 Mar 31;36(12):3221-3233. doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.9b03912. Epub 2020 Mar 18.


Phospholipid-coated targeted microbubbles are ultrasound contrast agents that can be used for molecular imaging and enhanced drug delivery. However, a better understanding is needed of their targeting capabilities and how they relate to microstructures in the microbubble coating. Here, we investigated the ligand distribution, lipid phase behavior, and their correlation in targeted microbubbles of clinically relevant sizes, coated with a ternary mixture of 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) or 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC), with PEG40-stearate and DSPE-PEG2000. To investigate the effect of lipid handling prior to microbubble production in DSPC-based microbubbles, the components were either dispersed in aqueous medium (direct method) or first dissolved and mixed in an organic solvent (indirect method). To determine the lipid-phase behavior of all components, experiments were conducted on monolayers at the air/water interface. In comparison to pure DSPC and DPPC, the ternary mixtures had an additional transition plateau around 10-12 mN/m. As confirmed by infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy (IRRAS), this plateau was due to a transition in the conformation of the PEGylated components (mushroom to brush). While the condensed phase domains had a different morphology in the ternary DPPC and DSPC monolayers on the Langmuir trough, the domain morphology was similar in the coating of both ternary DPPC and DSPC microbubbles (1.5-8 μm diameter). The ternary DPPC microbubbles had a homogenous ligand distribution and significantly less liquid condensed (LC) phase area in their coating than the DSPC-based microbubbles. For ternary DSPC microbubbles, the ligand distribution and LC phase area in the coating depended on the lipid handling. The direct method resulted in a heterogeneous ligand distribution, less LC phase area than the indirect method, and the ligand colocalizing with the liquid expanded (LE) phase area. The indirect method resulted in a homogenous ligand distribution with the largest LC phase area. In conclusion, lipid handling prior to microbubble production is of importance for a ternary mixture of DSPC, PEG40-stearate, and DSPE-PEG2000.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't