Integrin α2β1-Targeted Self-Assembled Nanocarriers for Tumor Bioimaging

Arnon Fluksman, Eliana Steinberg, Natalie Orehov, Ela Shai, Adi Lahiani, Jehoshua Katzhendler, Cezary Marcinkiewicz, Philip Lazarovici, Ofra Benny*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Recent developments in near-infrared (NIR) dyes and imaging modalities enable tumor fluorescent images in preclinical and clinical settings. However, NIR dyes have several drawbacks, and therefore, there is an unmet diagnostic need for NIR dye encapsulation in appropriate pharmaceutical nanocarriers with targeting abilities for the purpose of achieving effective diagnosis and image-guided surgeries. Because integrin receptors are established diagnostic targets, the cyclic Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptides, recognizing the αVβ3 integrin, have been extensively investigated for radiology and bioimaging of tumors. However, the Lys(Arg)-Thr-Ser [K(R)TS] cyclic peptides, selective for collagen receptors α1β1/α2β1 integrins, which are overexpressed in many tumors, were not yet investigated and therefore used here for tumor bioimaging with a unique α2β1-integrin-targeted nanocarrier, encapsulating the indocyanine green NIR dye. We synthesized three kinds of peptides: two cyclic RTS peptides functional only in the cyclic conformation and a linear peptide lacking the cyclic cysteine constrained RTS loop. We used them for the preparation of integrin-targeted self-assembled nanocarriers (ITNCs), referred to as OF5 and OF27, and a nontargeted control nanocarrier, referred to as OF70. Their selective association was demonstrated with α2β1 integrin expressing cell cultures and three-dimensional tumor spheroids and by competition with a α2β1 selective disintegrin. Cytotoxicity experiments in vitro demonstrated the safety of the ITNCs. The targeting potential and the biodistribution of the ITNCs, applied intravenously in A431 tumor-bearing nude mice, were evaluated in vivo using NIR bioimaging. Time-dependent biodistributions indicated that the ITNC OF27 showed higher fluorescent signals in main tissues, with no cytotoxic effects to major organs, and presented higher accumulation in tumors. Cumulatively, these results highlight the potential of the ITNC OF27 as an optical and innovative pharmaceutical bioimaging system, suitable for integrin α2β1 receptor in vivo tumor targeting and visualization in the NIR region.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6059-6070
Number of pages12
JournalACS Applied Bio Materials
Issue number9
StatePublished - 21 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Chemical Society.


  • 3D spheroid
  • A431 tumor
  • NIR
  • cyclic RTS peptide
  • nanocarriers
  • targeted bioimaging
  • αβintegrin


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