Receptor mediated targeting of liposomes

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The targeting of liposomes to cells and the delivery of the liposomal contents into the cells have been investigated using either α-melanocyte stimulating hormone or Ricin-B-chain as ligands for promoting the binding of liposomes to cells. α-melanocyte stimulating hormone has been conjugated to liposomes and to Ricin-A-chain via the Lys₁₁ residue without significant loss of biological activity. The resulting conjugates were found to bind to Bl6 melanoma cells which express receptors for the hormone. Hormone targeted ricin was shown to be toxic to the cells, indicating receptor mediated internalisation of the conjugate. The hormone targeted liposomes however were unable to mediate the delivery of cytotoxic levels of methotrexate. Ricin-B-chain, a lectin which mediates membrane translocation of the toxic ricin-A-chain, was examined for its applicability for targeting of liposomes to cells. This lectin was shown to promote the binding of liposomes to cells and to mediate the delivery of cytotoxic concentrations of methotrexate. Further evidence of functional ricin-B-chain mediated intracellular delivery of the liposomal contents was shown by liposome mediated transformation of cells, and delivery of nuclease into the cell resultin in digestion of genomic DNA. The study demonstrates that α-melanocyte stimulating hormone is unsuitable as a ligand by which to achieve delivery of large quantities of material into cells, although cell-specific targeting can be achieved. Ricin-B-chain is however ideally suited for this task, though is less cell-specific. This finding may be of use in studies in which investigators wish to achieve intracellular delivery of compounds.