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Circ Res. 2005 Feb 18;96(3):327-36. Epub 2005 Jan 13.

Detection of vascular adhesion molecule-1 expression using a novel multimodal nanoparticle.

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  • 1Center for Molecular Imaging Research, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.

Abstract

Endothelial vascular adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) is a critical component of the leukocyte-endothelial adhesion cascade, and its strict temporal and spatial regulation make it an ideal target for imaging and therapy. The goal of this study was to develop novel VCAM-1-targeted imaging agents detectable by MRI and fluorescence imaging using phage display-derived peptide sequences and multimodal nanoparticles (NPs). We hypothesized that VCAM-1-mediated cell internalization of phage display-selected peptides could be harnessed as an amplification strategy to chaperone and trap imaging agents inside VCAM-1-expressing cells, thus improving target-to-background ratios. To accomplish our goal, iterative phage display was performed on murine endothelium under physiological flow conditions to identify a family of VCAM-1-mediated cell-internalizing peptides. One specific sequence, containing the VHSPNKK motif that has homology to the alpha-chain of very late antigen (a known ligand for VCAM-1), was shown to bind VCAM-1 and block leukocyte-endothelial interactions. Compared with VCAM-1 monoclonal antibody, the peptide showed 12-fold higher target-to-background ratios. A VHSPNKK-modified magnetofluorescent NP (VNP) showed high affinity for endothelial cells expressing VCAM-1 but surprisingly low affinity for macrophages. In contrast, a control NP without VCAM-1-targeting sequences showed no affinity for endothelial cells. In vivo, VNP successfully identified VCAM-1-expressing endothelial cells in a murine tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced inflammatory model and colocalized with VCAM-1-expressing cells in atherosclerotic lesions present in cholesterol-fed apolipoprotein E apoE-/- mice. These results indicate that: (1) small peptide sequences can significantly alter targeting of NPs, (2) the used amplification strategy of internalization results in high target-to-background ratios, and (3) this technology is useful for in vivo imaging of endothelial markers.

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