The interaction of drug delivery systems with tissues is key for their application. An example is drug carriers targeted to endothelial barriers, which can be transported to intra-endothelial compartments (lysosomes) or transcellularly released at the tissue side (transcytosis). Although carrier targeting valency influences this process, the mechanism is unknown. We studied this using polymer nanocarriers (NCs) targeted to intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), an endothelial-surface glycoprotein whose expression is increased in pathologies characterized by inflammation. A bell-shaped relationship was found between NC targeting valency and the rate of transcytosis, where high and low NC valencies rendered less efficient transcytosis rates than an intermediate valency formulation. In contrast, an inverted bell-shape relationship was found for NC valency and lysosomal trafficking rates. Data suggested a model where NC valency plays an opposing role in the two sub-processes involved in transcytosis: NC binding-uptake depended directly on valency and exocytosis-detachment was inversely related to this parameter. This is because the greater the avidity of the NC-receptor interaction the more efficient uptake becomes, but NC-receptor detachment post-transport is more compromised. Cleavage of the receptor at the basolateral side of endothelial cells facilitated NC transcytosis, likely by helping NC detachment post-transport. Since transcytosis encompasses both sets of events, the full process finds an optimum at the intersection of these inverted relationships, explaining the bell-shaped behavior. NCs also trafficked to lysosomes from the apical side and, additionally, from the basolateral side in the case of high valency NCs which are slower at detaching from the receptor. This explains the opposite behavior of NC valency for transcytosis vs. lysosomal transport. Anti-ICAM NCs were verified to traffic into the brain after intravenous injection in mice, and both cellular and in vivo data showed that intermediate valency NCs resulted in higher delivery of a therapeutic enzyme, acid sphingomyelinase, required for types A and B Niemann-Pick disease.
Keywords: Blood-brain barrier; ICAM-1-targeted nanocarriers; Lysosomal vs. transcytosis destinations; Receptor-mediated transport; Targeting valency.
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