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Drug Deliv. 2016 Jun;23(5):1734-46. doi: 10.3109/10717544.2015.1028601. Epub 2015 Apr 8.

A smart tumor targeting peptide-drug conjugate, pHLIP-SS-DOX: synthesis and cellular uptake on MCF-7 and MCF-7/Adr cells.

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a State Key Laboratory of Natural and Biomimetic Drugs , School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Peking University , Beijing , China.


Doxorubicin (DOX) is a potent anticancer drug for the treatment of tumors, but the poor specificity and multi-drug resistance (MDR) on tumor cells have restricted its application. Here, a pH and reduction-responsive peptide-drug conjugate (PDC), pHLIP-SS-DOX, was synthesized to overcome these drawbacks. pH low insertion peptide (pHLIP) is a cell penetrating peptide (CPP) with pH-dependent transmembrane ability. And because of the unique cell membrane insertion pattern, it might reverse the MDR. The cellular uptake study showed that on both drug-sensitive MCF-7 and drug-resistant MCF-7/Adr cells, pHLIP-SS-DOX obviously facilitated the uptake of DOX at pH 6.0 and the uptake level on MCF-7/Adr cells was similar with that on MCF-7 cells, indicating that pHLIP-SS-DOX had the ability to target acidic tumor cells and reverse MDR. In vitro cytotoxicity study mediated by GSH-OEt demonstrated that the cytotoxic effect of pHLIP-SS-DOX was reduction responsive, with obvious cytotoxicity at pH 6.0; while it had poor cytotoxicity at pH 7.4, no matter with or without GSH-OEt pretreatment. This illustrated that pHLIP could deliver DOX into tumor cells with acidic microenvironment specifically and could not deliver drugs into normal cells with neutral microenvironment. In summary, pHLIP-SS-DOX is a promising strategy to target drugs to tumors and provides a possibility to overcome MDR.


Doxorubicin; multi-drug resistance; pH and reduction dual responsive; pH low insertion peptide; peptide–drug conjugate

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