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J Med Chem. 2004 Sep 23;47(20):4897-904.

Reversible PEGylation: a novel technology to release native interferon alpha2 over a prolonged time period.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry and Organic Chemistry, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Many peptide and protein drugs have a short circulatory half-life in vivo. The covalent attachment of polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains (PEGylation) can overcome this deficiency, but pegylated peptides and proteins are often inactive. In this study, we present a novel PEG-IFNalpha2 conjugate, PEG(40)-FMS-IFNalpha2, capable of regenerating native interferon alpha2 (IFNalpha2) at a slow rate under physiological conditions. A 2-sulfo-9-fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl (FMS) containing bifunctional reagent, MAL-FMS-NHS, has been synthesized, enabling the linkage of a 40 kDa PEG-SH to IFNalpha2 through a slowly hydrolyzable bond. By use of a BIAcore binding assay, the in vitro rate of regeneration of native interferon was estimated to have a half-life of 65 h. Following subcutaneous administration to rats and monitoring circulating antiviral activity, active IFNalpha2 levels peaked at 50 h, with substantial levels still being detected 200 h after administration. This value contrasts with a half-life of about 1 h measured for unmodified interferon. The concentration of active IFNalpha2 scaled linearly with the quantity injected. Comparing subcutaneous to intravenous administration of PEG(40)-FMS-IFNalpha2, we found that the long circulatory lifetime of IFNalpha2 was affected both by the slow rate of absorption of the PEGylated protein from the subcutaneous volume and by the slow rate of discharge from the PEG in circulation. A numerical simulation of the results was in good agreement with the results observed in vivo. The pharmacokinetic profile of this novel IFNalpha2 conjugate combines a prolonged maintenance in vivo with the regeneration of active-native IFNalpha2, ensuring ready access to peripheral tissues and thus an overall advantage over currently used formulations.

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