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The Fate Of A Designed Protein Corona On Nanoparticles In Vitro And In Vivo

Denise Bargheer, Julius Nielsen, Gabriella Gébel, Markus Heine, Sunhild C Salmen, Roland Stauber, Horst Weller, Joerg Heeren, Peter Nielsen

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A variety of monodisperse superparamagnetic iron oxide particles (SPIOs) was designed in which the surface was modified by PEGylation with mono- or bifunctional poly(ethylene oxide)amines (PEG). Using 125I-labeled test proteins (transferrin, albumin), the binding and exchange of corona proteins was studied first in vitro. Incubation with 125I-transferrin showed that with increasing grade of PEGylation the binding was substantially diminished without a difference between simply adsorbed and covalently bound protein. However, after incubation with excess albumin and subsequently whole plasma, transferrin from the preformed transferrin corona was more and more lost from SPIOs in the case of adsorbed proteins. If non-labeled transferrin was used as preformed corona and excess 125I-labeled albumin was added to the reaction mixtures with different SPIOs, a substantial amount of label was bound to the particles with initially adsorbed transferrin but little or even zero with covalently bound transferrin. These in vitro experiments show a clear difference in the stability of a preformed hard corona with adsorbed or covalently bound protein. This difference seems, however, to be of minor importance in vivo when polymer-coated 59Fe-SPIOs with adsorbed or covalently bound 125I-labeled mouse transferrin were injected intravenously in mice. With both protein coronae the 59Fe/125I-labelled particles were cleared from the blood stream within 30 min and appeared in the liver and spleen to a large extent (>90%). In addition, after 2 h already half of the 125I-labeled transferrin from both nanodevices was recycled back into the plasma and into tissue. This study confirms that adsorbed transferrin from a preformed protein corona is efficiently taken up by cells. It is also highlighted that a radiolabelling technique described in this study may be of value to investigate the role of protein corona formation in vivo for the respective nanoparticle uptake.