Lyophilisomes are a novel class of biodegradable proteinaceous nano/micrometer capsules with potential use as drug delivery carrier. Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) including the TAT peptide have been successfully implemented for intracellular delivery of a broad variety of cargos including various nanoparticulate pharmaceutical carriers. In the present study, lyophilisomes were modified using CPPs in order to achieve enhanced cellular uptake. Lyophilisomes were prepared by a freezing, annealing, and lyophilization method and a cystein-elongated TAT peptide was conjugated to the lyophilisomes using a heterobifunctional linker. Fluorescent-activated cell sorting (FACS) was utilized to acquire a lyophilisome population with a particle diameter smaller than 1000 nm. Cultured HeLa, OVCAR-3, Caco-2 and SKOV-3 cells were exposed to unmodified lyophilisomes and TAT-conjugated lyophilisomes and examined with FACS. HeLa cells were investigated in more detail using a trypan blue quenching assay, confocal microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. TAT-conjugation strongly increased binding and cellular uptake of lyophilisomes in a time-dependent manner in vitro, as assessed by FACS. These results were confirmed by confocal microscopy. Transmission electron microscopy indicated rapid cellular uptake of TAT-conjugated lyophilisomes via phagocytosis and/or macropinocytosis. In conclusion, TAT-peptides conjugated to albumin-based lyophilisomes are able to enhance cellular uptake of lyophilisomes in HeLa cells.
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